Joe Biden to name trailblazing lesbian and trans nominees for high-ranking defence roles

Joe Biden nominees Brenda "Sue" Fulton Shawn Skelly

President Joe Biden is set to nominate two trailblazing LGBT+ activists to high-ranking posts in the Department of Defense.

The White House announced on Friday (23 April) president Biden’s intent to nominate seven individuals to serve in key national security positions. Among the nominations, he said he intended to nominate two members of the LGBT+ community to high-ranking Department of Defense roles.

Biden said he intended to nominate Brenda “Sue” Fulton, a lesbian activist, for assistant secretary for manpower and reserve affairs at the Department of Defense. In this role, Fulton will serve as a key advisor for US military personnel affairs.

Fulton graduated from West Point Military Academy in 1980 as part of the academy’s first class to admit women. She served in the US Army as a platoon leader, staff officer and company commander in Germany before her honourable discharge at the rank of captain.

Fulton, who has a 25-year career in brand management at Fortune 100 companies, also helped found Knights Out and Ourserve. Both organisations were key in the battle to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. She also founded and leads SPARTA, an LGBT military group advocating for transgender military service.

In 2011, former president Barak Obama appointed her as the first openly gay member of the West Point board of visitors, and she was later elected chair of the board twice. Fulton and her wife Penelope Gnesin, who tragically died in 2019, were the first same-sex couple to be married at West Point’s Cadet Chapel in 2012.

Alongside Fulton, president Joe Biden also nominated Shawn Skelley, a transgender national security expert, for the role of assistant secretary of defense for readiness. The role is crucial in overseeing the US military force and health affairs overseas.

Skelly served in the US Navy for over twenty years as a naval flight officer and eventually retired from active duty as a commander. In 2013, she joined Obama’s administration as the first trans veteran appointed by a US president. She served as special assistant to the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics at the Department of Defense and as the director of the Office of the Executive Secretariat at the US Department of Transportation.

Skelly also served as a member of Biden’s presidential transition defense agency review team. She is vice president and co-founder of Out in National Security, a community of LGBT+ activist and national security professionals.