Gina Ortiz Jones and Shawn Skelly Testify at Historic Hearings; Both Will Make LGBTQ History if Confirmed

Jones and Skelly testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee;

Jones will be first out lesbian to serve as under secretary of a military branch if confirmed;

Skelly will be highest-ranking out trans defense official in U.S. history if confirmed

Washington, DC – Presidential nominees Gina Ortiz Jones and Shawn Skelly testified at confirmation hearings before the Senate Armed Services Committee this morning and both will make LGBTQ history if confirmed by the full U.S. Senate. Jones, nominated for Under Secretary of the Air Force, will be the first out lesbian to serve as under secretary of a military branch if confirmed. Skelly, nominated for Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness, will be the highest-ranking out transgender defense official in U.S. history if confirmed.

Questions from senators for Jones and Skelly were universally respectful and focused on their military expertise and qualifications for the positions.

During her opening statement, after thanking her partner for her support, Jones spoke directly to a history of discrimination in the military – including her uncle’s limited opportunities as a Filipino who served. She likened her uncle’s experience to her service under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and said: “That experience cemented my resolve to ensure anyone ready and able to serve can do so to their full potential and accordingly our country’s fullest potential.”

Mayor Annise Parker, President & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Institute, said the following about the confirmation hearings:

“These two trailblazing nominees demonstrated their deep military expertise and qualifications before the committee and we know their experiences as LGBTQ people will shape their leadership in these critical positions. Their performance was a powerful testament to the progress our military and nation has made – just one decade after the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ – and is an important moment for LGBTQ servicemembers who served or continue to serve in silence. Their confirmation will transform perceptions of LGBTQ people within the ranks of the U.S. military, but also among the leaders of militaries we work with around the world.”

Jones is an Air Force and Iraq War veteran and former candidate for U.S. Congress. She was an intelligence analyst for U.S. Africa Command and a senior strategic planner and then special advisor to the Deputy Director for the Defense Intelligence Agency. Skelly is a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Navy and retired with the rank of Commander. She was Special Assistant to the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics at the U.S. Department of Defense and a commissioner to the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service.

Jones and Skelly are two of more than 200 LGBTQ political appointees to the administration of President Joe Biden – including at least 12 currently serving in the Department of Defense. Also nominated and awaiting a confirmation hearing is Sue Fulton, a retired U.S. Army Captain, who is nominated to be Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower and Reserve Affairs.

Victory Institute’s Presidential Appointments Initiative works with the administration to recommend and advocate for qualified LGBTQ leaders ready to serve in the administration – including Jones and Skelly. Victory Institute aims to help the Biden administration become the most LGBTQ-inclusive in U.S. history.

Ruben Gonzales, Executive Director of LGBTQ Victory Institute, said the following:

“The Biden team is building the most LGBTQ-inclusive administration in U.S. history and the impact it will have on policies and legislation is enormous. Gina and Shawn will join at least a dozen other out Defense Department appointees who understand the challenges LGBTQ servicemembers face and will make their well-being a priority. Our military, like our government, is strongest when it reflects the diversity of the people it serves and ensures all are treated with dignity and respect. Gina and Shawn are shattering lavender ceilings that will encourage more LGBTQ people to consider public service.”

In 2013, Eric Fanning became the first out LGBTQ person to ever serve as under secretary of a military branch when he was confirmed as Under Secretary of the Air Force. Fanning again made history in 2016 when he was confirmed as Secretary of the Army.

About Victory Institute

LGBTQ Victory Institute works to achieve and sustain global equality through leadership development, training, and convening to increase the number, expand the diversity, and ensure the success of openly LGBTQ elected and appointed officials at all levels of government.

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