The United States Senate unanimously voted in favor of Gina Ortiz Jones for the position of Under Secretary of the Air Force and Shawn Skelly to serve as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness and Force Management. Skelly is the second transgender woman to be confirmed by the Senate; the first is Rachel Levine, who was confirmed as Assistant Secretary to the Department of Health and Human Services in March of this year. Jones is the first lesbian to be confirmed into a high-level defense position by the Senate.
Daughter to Victorina Ortiz, an immigrant from the Philippines, Jones and her family identify as part of an ethnolinguistic Filipino group known as Ilocano. This, as well as the fact that Jones came out at the age of 15, set her apart from her Air Force cohort. She spent time in Iraq and acted as strategic planner and special adviser in the Defense Intelligence Agency. In both 2019 and 2020, Jones lost the elections for Texas’ 23rd District seat to Republican rivals.
Skelly is no stranger to the world of politics or LGBTQ advocacy. Before co-founding Out in National Security, a nonprofit that seeks to improve the conditions of and opportunities for queer individuals to participate in national security and internal affairs, Skelly worked in President Obama’s Department of Transportation, as well as the National Commission on Military, National and Public Service. Skelly’s expertise stems from her 20-year active duty service in the U.S. Navy as well as her master’s degree in National Security and Strategic Studies.
The LGBTQ Victory Institute is an organization dedicated to ensuring that queer individuals are represented in government. Says Victory Institute Executive Director Ruben Gonzalez: “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 (Ortiz Jones) and Shawn (Skelly) are shattering lavender ceilings that will encourage more LGBTQ people to consider public service.”
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