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White House names first male, first openly gay social secretary

Newly-named WH social secretary Jeremy Bernard, left, and his partner Rufus Gifford
Newly-named WH social secretary Jeremy Bernard, left, and his partner Rufus Gifford HRC

The White House announced Friday that Jeremy Bernard, a senior staffer at the U.S. Embassy in Paris, has been named the new White House social secretary and special assistant to President Obama.

Bernard is the first male and the first openly gay person to be named to the post, the Washington Post reports.

"Jeremy shares our vision for the White House as the People's House, one that celebrates our history and culture in dynamic and inclusive ways," Mr. Obama said in a statement. "We look forward to Jeremy continuing to showcase America's arts and culture to our nation and the world through the many events at the White House."

Bernard currently serves as a senior adviser to the U.S. ambassador to France. Prior to that, he worked as the White House liaison to the National Endowment for the Humanities; before that, he worked on the Obama presidential campaign. He was appointed by President Bill Clinton to the President's Advisory Committee on the Arts for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and he was a member of the Democratic National Committee from 2001 to 2009.

Bernard also previously served as a board member of A.N.G.L.E. (Access Now for Gay & Lesbian Equality) and the National Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund.

"I am deeply humbled to join the White House staff as Social Secretary and support President Obama and the First Lady in this role," said Jeremy Bernard. "I have long admired the arts and education programs that have become hallmarks of the Obama White House and I am eager to continue these efforts in the years ahead."

Bernard replaces Julianna Smoot, who served as social secretary for about a year after Mr. Obama's first social secretary, Desiree Rogers, stepped down. Rogers was the first African American to serve in the role, but she left in the wake of criticism over the Salahi "party crashing" incident in which uninvited guests were able to enter a White House State dinner.

Joe Solmonese, president of the gay rights group The Human Rights Campaign, released a statement today calling Bernard's appointment "historic."

"We celebrate his appointment not merely because of the ground that he is breaking but because we know that he will serve the President and First Lady exceptionally well," he said. "He is competent, gracious under pressure and has distinguished himself as a leader in a number of fields. The President and Mrs. Obama could not have selected a better candidate to ensure that all Americans are welcomed to the 'people's house.'"