The Huffington Post just summarized a Wall Street Journal report on the American Rights at Work founding executive director, Mary Beth Maxwell, who would become the nation’s first openly gay Cabinet member if named Labor Secretary.
She does have considerable competition — Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm and Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, two key Obama allies throughout his campaign. But her nomination would do several things:
1. It would give an openly gay American an executive-level post, perhaps opening the door to more high-level appointments and high-profile elected officials for LGBT politicians.
2. It would place someone who identifies with the challenges of an LGBT worker and parent — for she has an adopted African-American son — in a position where LGBT Americans could use help. As head of the Department of Labor, Maxwell would oversee the division of government entrusted with overseeing workers’ rights and benefits, at a time where many LGBT Americans might have risked their jobs for participating in the Day Without a Gay campaign, and when many more LGBT Americans want to marry and be able to enroll their partners in their health plans.
3. It could, sadly, trigger a nomination battle in which the fear-based ideological battles we’ve seen in recent Presidential administrations could resurface.
It’s therefore worth following this story, to make sure that if Maxwell is nominated, that this doesn’t become the same sort of political mess that came with the debate over gays in the military and the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell “solution.” It may require straight and gay supporters of Maxwell to come forward and demand her confirmation.