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Senate confirms first out LGBTQ person of color to ambassador-level post

Chantale Wong will serve as the U.S. director of the Asian Development Bank. President Joe Biden nominated her for the position in the summer.

The Senate has confirmed the first out lesbian and first out LGBTQ person of color to serve in an ambassador-level position. Chantale Wong, whom the Senate voted 66-31 to confirm Tuesday, will serve as U.S. director of the Asian Development Bank.  

President Joe Biden nominated her for the position in July.

Wong, who is Asian American, brings to the role more than 30 years of experience in finance, technology and the environment, according to a White House news release. She previously served as acting budget director at the Treasury Department and as NASA’s budget director.

Chantale Wong
Chantale Wong. U.S. government

LGBTQ advocacy and political groups view Wong’s confirmation as a sign of progress.

Imani Rupert-Gordon, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said Wong’s confirmation is part of a wave of LGBTQ officials appointed to high-ranking roles by the Biden administration. 

“When President Biden took office a year ago, he pledged to transform the Executive Branch by including appointments that reflected the full diversity of our great nation — including people of color and members of the LGBTQ community,” Rupert-Gordon said in a statement. “From appointing Secretary Buttigieg and Admiral Rachel Levine — the first Senate-confirmed openly gay and transgender cabinet-level appointments respectively — to today’s confirmation of Ambassador Wong, it is clear that President Biden is intent on fulfilling that promise.”  

Rupert-Gordon added: “While there is still much work to be done on elevating LGBTQ nominees to federal judicial roles, we are heartened to see LGBTQ individuals finally being represented in the highest levels of government for the first time in history.” 

Former Houston Mayor Annise Parker, the president and chief executive of the LGBTQ Victory Fund and LGBTQ Victory Institute, also applauded Wong’s confirmation. 

 “As the first out LGBTQ person of color confirmed to an ambassador-level position, Ambassador Wong is also a symbol of hope and strength for LGBTQ leaders and community members fighting for LGBTQ rights across the globe,” Parker said in a statement. “Millions of people still live in countries that criminalize LGBTQ people and deny them the right to marry, including many members states of the Asian Development Bank. Her appointment is a powerful statement to those nations.”

After she was nominated last year, Wong explained some of her plans for the position in a Facebook post. 

“If I am confirmed by the US Senate, I will serve with humility and with [the] purpose of advancing US interest at the Asian Development Bank and the region on behalf of my fellow Americans,” she wrote.

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