Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to Roberta Achtenberg. While many of you may recognize Achtenberg’s name as the co-founder of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, she made an amazing impact as the first openly gay person to be confirmed by the Senate for a major political post. In 1993, Achtenberg became the Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development under President Clinton.
In 1993, her Senate confirmation was not without stress. Remember that lovely racist bigot, Jesse Helms, from North Carolina? Helms referred to Achtenberg as, “that damn lesbian.” I remember being particularly happy about Achtenberg standing up to the Boy Scouts and denying them funding because of their anti-gay discrimination–something not seen in the Girl Scouts. Unfortunately, despite Achtenberg’s censure of the Boy Scouts and Steven Spielberg’s protest of the discriminatory policies, the Boy Scouts still practice the good old “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” stay in the closet policy. Kudos to our Achtenberg for making the world a better place for all.