President-elect Joe Biden announced on Tuesday, the day before his inauguration, that he will nominate Dr. Rachel Levine, an out transgender woman, for U.S. Assistant Secretary of Health. She is the first openly transgender person ever to be nominated for a federal Senate-confirmable position in U.S. history. The Senate will turn over from Republican to Democrat control and is expected to confirm all of Biden’s nominees.
“Dr. Rachel Levine will bring the steady leadership and essential expertise we need to get people through this pandemic—no matter their zip code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability—and meet the public health needs of our country in this critical moment and beyond,” Biden said in a statement. “She is a historic and deeply qualified choice to help lead our administration’s health efforts.”
Dr. Levine, a Harvard graduate, is currently the Secretary of Health for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry at Penn State College of Medicine. She previously served as the Physician General of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania from 2015 to 2017.
If confirmed for her new role, Dr. Levine would oversee multiple offices and programs across the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Office of the Surgeon General, and the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.
Mayor Annise Parker, President & CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Institute, said in a statement that Dr. Levine’s “nomination is groundbreaking and shows the Biden administration will choose the most qualified individuals to lead our nation regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Dr. Levine is making history and will transform Americans’ perceptions of trans people when she takes office and begins to work on their behalf.”
Dr. Levine is one of two LGBTQ nominations Biden will make to the Senate, along with Secretary of Transportation nominee Pete Buttigieg. Many other members of the administration who do not need Senate confirmation are also openly LGBTQ, including Carlos Elizondo as White House Social Secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre as Principal Deputy Press Secretary, and Gautam Raghavan as Deputy Director of the Office of Presidential Personnel.
President-elect Biden has also nominated the first Native American Cabinet Secretary, the first Black Secretary of Defense, the first Latino to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, the first woman for Deputy Defense Secretary, the first woman of color for U.S. Trade Representative, the first woman Treasury Secretary, and others.
The first openly gay member of a presidential Cabinet was appointed by outgoing President Trump in February 2020, but the three-month “acting” appointment was never confirmed by the Senate. President-elect Biden’s transition team has included multiple LGBTQ people, including openly trans retired Navy commander Shawn Skelly.
A coalition of more than 30 LGBTQ and allied organizations support Dr. Levine’s nomination.