On Wednesday, the Biden-Harris transition team held a press conference to officially announce Pete Buttigieg's historic nomination to the upcoming U.S. Cabinet. As Buttigieg mentioned in his acceptance speech, he is now the youngest member named so far to this cabinet and the "first millennial invited to a seat at that table." Nominated to the Secretary of Transportation slot, the former South Bend, Indiana mayor also makes history as the first out LGBTQ+ cabinet nominee.
"Americans have given this administration a mandate to build back better and step one in building back better, literally, is to build," Buttigieg said in his speech. "Americans shouldn't settle for less than our peers in the developed world when it comes to our roads and bridges, railways, and transit systems.
"The U.S should lead the way," he continued. "I know that in this administration, we will." He talked about travel at large, his love of trains, and more. He went on to say that "travel in my mind is synonymous with growth, with invention, even love" — the latter evidenced by the fact that he proposed to his now-husband Chasten at an O'Hare International Airport terminal.
"I want to take this chance to thank Chasten for everything that he gives and everything that he sacrifices to support me in public service," he says. Buttigieg later went on to tout his resume, pointing to his work with the infrastructure of South Bend. His vision for the nation is about "equitably' serving "all Americans while continuing to ensure the safety of travelers and travel-workers alike."
The candidate also took time to note not only the historic nature of his appointment but how homophobia has played into the political process for out candidates before.
"I'm also mindful that the eyes of history are on this appointment, knowing that this is the first time an American president has ever sent an openly LGBTQ cabinet member to the Senate for confirmation," he said. "I can remember watching the news, 17 years old in Indiana, and seeing a story on an appointee of President Clinton, named to be an ambassador attacked and denied a vote in the Senate because he was gay ultimately able to serve, only by a recess appointment. At the time I had no aspirations of being appointed by a president to anything — at that age, I was hoping to be an airline pilot. And I was a long way from coming out, even to myself, but still, I watched that story and learned something about some of the limits that exist in this country when it comes to who is allowed to belong. But just as important, I saw how those limits could be challenged." The appointee he was referring to is James Hormel.
Hormel was reportedly first considered for an ambassadorship to Fiji but Fiji still criminalized homosexuality at the time. He was the appointed to be ambassador to Luxembourg in 1997. Though he was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he was later stalled by Republicans and a coalition of religious groups, though Luxembourg indicated it would welcome him.
According to screenshots now circulating on social media, at the time Biden spoke out against then-Senator Trent Lott's stalling tactics. He attributed it to "ignorance, but not malevolence. I've not found Trent to be a malevolent guy," he said. "I don't think there's anything that justifies denying a gay person any of the basic human rights anyone else has." As the stalling continued, president Bill Clinton employed a recess appointment in 1999 and Hormel was sworn in with Timothy Wu, his then-partner, holding the bible.
"So two decades later, I can't help but think of a 17-year-old somewhere who might be watching us right now," he continued. "Somebody who wonders whether and where they belong in the world or even in their own family and I'm thinking about the message today's announcement is sending to them. "