Two out military veterans make history at Senate Armed Services confirmation hearing

Two out presidential nominees are making history this morning at their confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services committee.

Transgender military appointee Shawn Skelly smiling in a dark blazer, gay military appointee Gina Ortiz Jones smiling in a white collared shirt with arms crossed

Gina Ortiz Jones (R) is President Biden’s nominee for Under Secretary of the Air Force. She will be the first out lesbian and first woman of color to serve as under secretary of a military branch if confirmed. Jones would be the second highest civilian official in the Air Force, overseeing hundreds of thousands of personnel and a budget of hundreds of billions of dollars.

Shawn Skelly (L) is nominated for Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness. If confirmed, she will be the highest-ranking out transgender defense official in U.S. history.

Jones served as an Air Force intelligence officer, including tours in Iraq and during “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” She advised on military operations in Central and South America and joined the Defense Intelligence Agency as a member of U.S. Africa Command. Jones also served as the Intelligence Community’s Senior Advisor for trade enforcement.

In her opening statement, Jones thanked her partner Anna for “her unconditional love, endless patience and constant encouragement.”

Gina Ortiz Jones seated and speaking at Senate hearing

Jones described how her uncle, a native of the Philippines, had enlisted in the U.S. Navy but was limited in service because of his ethnicity. She said her experience serving under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” similarly hindered her service, and influences her commitment to all military personnel to this day.

“I remained undeterred because of my desire to serve our country. 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,” Jones told the committee.

“If confirmed, that tenet will guide my service. That is what our airmen and guardians deserve. That is what the American people entrusting us with their sons and daughters should expect. And that is what the challenges and opportunities we face as a country require.”

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed ten years ago. An estimated 13,000 LGBTQ Americans were discharged from the military in the 17 years the policy was enforced. More than 100,000 service members were discharged for being gay between World War II and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Research showed that LGBTQ inclusion did not compromise military effectiveness.

Skelly served more than twenty years in the U.S. Navy as a flight officer and retired from active duty as Commander. President Obama appointed Skelly to serve as Commissioner on the National Commission on Military, National and Public Service, to review the military selective service and work to increase participation in military and public service. Skelly is Vice President and co-founder of Out in National Security.

In her opening statement, Skelly thanked her family, Beth and Michael, for their love and support, and testified that the Department of Defense has been central to her professional life for almost 40 years, starting from her ROTC scholarship at the age of 17, and as she pursued and achieved her dream of flying jets off aircraft carriers.

Shawn Skelly seated and speaking at senate confirmation hearing

“If confirmed, I would be honored to bring my career’s experience of service, dedication to mission, and steadfast belief in the incredible capabilities of our uniformed servicemembers and civil servants who defend our nation, to my performance of the responsibilities of assistant secretary of defense for readiness,” Skelly told the committee in her opening statement.

As of April 30, 2021, transgender Americans are again serving openly, after President Biden reversed the previous president’s ban announced by tweet.

“Gina Ortiz Jones and Shawn Skelly are once again serving their country and leading by example as role models for excellence, authenticity and LGBTQ acceptance,” said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis.

“Our military is stronger when all who are capable are welcome to serve. Our country is stronger when each of us brings our whole self to the task without fear of rejection or discrimination,” Ellis continued. “Today should be a celebration for all military personnel, especially LGBTQ members who served in silence or were kicked out for being who they are. Secretary-nominees Jones and Skelly are showing all Americans that LGBTQ people contribute and lead, and when they do, our country is safer and more accepting for all.”

President Biden has nominated, appointed or hired more than 200 out LGBTQ Americans to serve in his administration.

GLAAD is documenting the Biden Administration’s LGBTQ policies, appointments and statements in our Biden Accountability Tracker.

About GLAAD:

GLAAD rewrites the script for LGBTQ acceptance. As a dynamic media force, GLAAD tackles tough issues to shape the narrative and provoke dialogue that leads to cultural change. GLAAD protects all that has been accomplished and creates a world where everyone can live the life they love.