Meet the First Openly Gay State Department Spokesperson: 'No Higher Honor' Than This Work, He Says

Ned Price made history as the first openly gay spokesperson for the State Department when he was appointed two weeks ago, to serve under Secretary Anthony Blinken.

A new profile in The Daily Beast sheds light on the 38-year-old's barrier-breaking appointment to the department, where he will be a public face for America's diplomatic work, and how his own life shaped his career.

Before joining the State Department, according to The Daily Beast, Price was a CIA intelligence analyst and spokesman who then had stints at the National Security Council as a director of strategic communications and assistant press secretary and, later, as a spokesman and senior director for strategic communications.

In 2016, the Beast reported, Price was appointed to be special assistant to the president under Barack Obama, where he stayed until the end of the administration.

Ben Rhodes, who had worked above Price, told the outlet that Price "transitioned from the mindset of a CIA analyst and press officer to someone who had to cover literally the whole world at the White House, including the complicated intersection of national security and politics."

Rhodes added that Price was "the most unflappable spokesperson I worked with."

Rhodes added that Price comes to his new role with ties to others in the administration, having worked on the Obama-era Ebola task force with Ronald Klain (now Biden's chief of staff) and also worked closely with current White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.

Other former colleagues — like Obama White House spokesman Eric Schultz — told the outlet that Price is "savvy," "collaborative" and "fun to be around," and "knows when not to take himself too seriously." (His nature apparently spills over into "fun, raucous weekend brunches that can last all day.")

The Beast reports that Price and his partner, NBC News spokesman Richard Hudock, have been together for more than three years.

In a statement to The Daily Beast, Price price said there was "no higher honor than working with the women and men of the State Department. In this role, I'm speaking on their behalf and on behalf of the U.S. government; that's what makes it especially thrilling. I'd rather let them, their work, and America's role in the world be the center of attention, which is why I'll decline to comment."

Prior to 1995 — when then-President Bill Clinton issued an executive order reversing the law — members of the LGBTQ community were ineligible for security clearance, according to The Daily Beast.

Price has written openly about his sexuality, recalling in a 2011 op-ed for The Washington Post how he had an uncomfortable run-in with a law enforcement officer who pulled him over for speeding during evening rush-hour.

Price wrote how after he was accused of driving with a suspended license and placed under arrest (the result of an administrative error), the officer asked him if we was gay.

"It was a question that had been posed to me many times in the past. Until a few years ago, my answer had been singular and unequivocal, 'No. But as I began coming out to friends and family, I grew comfortable with who I was, even if I never felt the need to advertise it. But never before had the question been put to me under such circumstances … I hesitated briefly before committing another offense: I lied to a policeman, telling him, no, I was not gay," Price wrote. "'Good,' he replied with an exaggerated sigh of relief. He then warned me to stay away from the 'public bathrooms' near the District's Meridian Hill Park. He laughed heartily. I sat there, humiliated."

Afterward, he told the officer the truth and explained that the question and comments were "inappropriate and deeply hurtful," Price wrote.

"He apologized," Price continued. "I omitted, though, that equally painful was my decision to deny the accusation initially … More often than not, however, the moment is inopportune. What matters most is being able to speak the truth regardless. In addition to a couple of traffic tickets, that's what I took away from that police station."

Biden's State department, which is led by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, has made LGBTQ rights a priority, focusing on human rights abroad.

In a presidential memorandum, Biden directed all government departments and agencies engaged abroad "to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) persons around the world."

A press release announcing the memo added that that "the struggle to end violence, discrimination,  criminalization, and stigma against LGBTQI+ persons is a global challenge that remains central to our commitment to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms for all individuals.  In the Biden-Harris administration, the United States will lead by the power of our example and pursue a policy to end violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics." (Some of Biden's supportive moves for transgender students have drawn criticism from conservatives.)

Price joins a number of other history-making appointments in the Biden administration. Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg made history by becoming the first publicly-out gay Cabinet secretary approved by the Senate. He was sworn in as transportation secretary earlier this month.

Also this month, Alejandro Mayorkas was sworn in as the first Latino and first immigrant to lead the Department of Homeland Security.

Other firsts in Biden's cabinet include his vice president, Kamala Harris, the first woman and first Black and Asian person to hold her office.

In January, Janet Yellen was confirmed as the first female treasury secretary, days after the Senate confirmations of Avril Haines, the first woman to serve as director of national intelligence, and retired four-star Gen. Lloyd Austin as the first Black secretary of Defense.

Other Cabinet picks that have yet to be confirmed include Xavier Becerra, who would become the first Latino to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, and Deb Haaland, the nominee for interior secretary, who would be the first Native American to lead the department.

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