Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 50 / 14 December 2017
 

Obama appoints out lesbian from SF to commission

President Barack Obama announced today (Wednesday, January 26)  that he’s appointed an out lesbian, former San Francisco Supervisor Roberta Achtenberg, to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

The appointment makes her the first out lesbian or gay person appointed to the commission, according to one associate.

Achtenberg (pictured at right) would only tell the Bay Area Reporter, “I cannot talk with you, my dear,” and referred questions to Obama spokesman Shin Inouye. She then said, “Thanks a lot, bye bye,” and hung up the phone.

This isn’t the first time Achtenberg’s been part of a presidential administration.

During the Clinton Administration, Achtenberg served as assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development  and later as a senior advisor to the secretary of the agency.

Achtenberg garnered more attention than most assistant secretaries when then-Senator Jesse Helms referred to her as “that damn lesbian” and tried to block her confirmation.

Before becoming a public official, she worked for more than 15 years as a civil rights attorney, nonprofit director and legal educator.  She also co-founded the National Center for Lesbian Rights, serving as executive director from 1983 to 1990.

Current NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell said in a statement that Achtenberg’s appointment, “is history making.

“Roberta will be the first openly lesbian or gay person appointed to the Commission,” Kendell stated. ” More importantly, her appointment assures that a woman of remarkable intelligence, broad commitment to justice and equality, and a life-long legacy of public service will be there to give voice and representation to those who are denied opportunity, fairness, and equality under the law.”

Inouye said he couldn’t comment on the appointment other than what was in the press release. He said at this point, Achtenberg’s appointment is actually “an intent to nominate. It’s not official yet.”

The position doesn’t require Senate confirmation, but he said some paperwork still needs to be filed.

Among other achievements, Achtenberg, who was a San Francisco supervisor in the early 1990s, also held senior-policy making roles with the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and the San Francisco Center for Economic Development from 1997 to 2004.

She is currently a member and past chair of the California State University Board of Trustees and serves as vice board chair of the Bank of San Francisco.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, January 26, 2011 @ 5:15 pm PST
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