WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama plans to nominate an openly gay lawyer as the United States’ ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa, an administration official said Wednesday.
David Huebner was the lawyer who would be announced for the post, said the official.
If confirmed by the Senate, Huebner would be the Obama administration’s first openly gay ambassador. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush both had openly gay ambassadors during their terms.
Huebner is currently based in Shanghai, where he handles international arbitration and mediation cases. A graduate of Princeton University and Yale Law School, he is also the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation’s general counsel and previously served on the group’s board.
The announcement is a gesture just days before Obama speaks to a gay rights fundraising dinner on Saturday and gay activists march on Washington on Sunday.
Obama’s relationship with gay activists has been rocky since his election. Gays and lesbians objected to the invitation of evangelist Rev. Rick Warren to participate in Obama’s inauguration because of Warren’s support for repealing gay marriage in California. Obama responded by having Episcopalian Bishop V. Gene Robinson, the denomination’s first openly gay bishop, participate at another event.
As president, Obama hasn’t taken any concrete steps urging Congress to rescind the Clinton-era “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that allows gays and lesbians to serve in the military as long as they don’t disclose their sexual orientation or act on it.