John Berry ... nominated to be the United States' ambassador to Australia. Photo: Director of the Office of Personnel Management
Gay marriage campaigners hope the nomination of the first openly gay US Ambassador to Australia brings the issue of same sex marriage back to the political fore.
Former director of the Office of Personnel Management John Berry was nominated for the position as part of 15 new key administration posts announced by US President Barack last week.
The nomination of Mr Berry, who became the highest ranking openly gay official in US history four years ago, is subject to confirmation by the Senate.
Serving US Ambassador Jeffrey Bleich welcomed the announcement, telling Fairfax Media he was delighted with President Obama’s choice.
“I know John as a smart, energetic and extremely likeable man who is enthusiastic about the US-Australian relationship,” he said.
“He is a talented and dedicated public servant with a wealth of experience in senior level positions. I am hopeful that the US Senate will act favorably on his nomination, and look forward to the opportunity to work with him to ensure a seamless transition.”
A spokeswoman for the ambassador said there was no fixed date for Mr Bleich stepping down from the position, or for his replacement to begin his or her term.
Equal Love Canberra spokeswoman Ivette Madrid said Mr Berry’s nomination could bring issues such as gay marriage back on the political agenda, particularly given his work tackling discrimination in the US.
“If he’s going to do the same here in Australia, it would be great,” he said.
“He would be welcomed with open arms, to support our cause and our fight for equality.”
Ms Madrid said the group were pushing hard to get the issue back on the agenda prior to the election and said Mr Berry’s nomination, if confirmed, would give them “more energy” to continue their work.
If confirmed by the Senate, Mr Berry will become the fourth openly gay man to serve as a US ambassador following the likes of current Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa David Huebner.
Since beginning his career in government as an intern with Montgomery County government, Mr Berry has gone on to roles such as the director of the National Zoo, where he has a lion cub named in his honour.