WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama’s choice of Jeremy Bernard as the new White House social secretary Friday made history in multiple ways: Bernard is both the first male and the first openly gay person to take over the event-planning role.
Gays hailed the appointment of Bernard, which came the same week in which the Obama administration decided it would no longer stand up for a law that defined marriage as between a man and woman.
“We celebrate his appointment not merely because of the ground that he is breaking but because we know that he will serve the president and first lady exceptionally well,” said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a national organization.
Obama last year pushed to legalize military service for gays and has said his views on gay marriage are evolving. In a statement announcing the appointment, the president acknowledged the diversity Bernard will bring to the White House.
“Jeremy shares our vision for the White House as the People’s house, one that celebrates our history and culture in dynamic and inclusive ways,” Obama said.
Bernard becomes the Obamas’ third social secretary in a little more than two years, after Desiree Rogers and Juliana Smoot. Rogers resigned in February 2010, three months after a publicity-seeking Washington couple, Tareq and Michaele Salahi, crashed a state dinner, resulting in widespread questions about White House security.
Smoot, like Bernard a former Obama fundraiser, is moving over to help manage Obama’s re-election bid.
Bernard, a native of San Antonio, Texas, will move to the White House staff from the U.S. Embassy in Paris. He previously worked as the White House liaison to the National Endowment for the Humanities.
National Endowment Chairman Jim Leach praised Bernard’s “humor, good will, and high standard of professionalism.” For eight years, he was a member of the Democratic National Committee.
Marc Jacobson, a Democratic Party activist and chairman of Mapleton Investments, said he expected Bernard to take a more wide-ranging approach to guest lists at state dinners and other White House functions, perhaps drawing people from more diverse walks of life.