Berry is one of eight openly gay men Obama has appointed to ambassadorial positions, although the appointees are still subject to confirmation by the US Senate. Other gay men were appointed as ambassadors to Spain, Denmark and the Dominican Republic.
Berry will replace current US ambassador to Australia Jeffrey Bleich, who has expressed enthusiasm at the appointment.
“I know John as a smart, energetic and extremely likeable man who is enthusiastic about the US-Australian relationship,” he Bleich told Fairfax Media.
“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.”
On his appointment in 2009 as director of the Office of Personnel Management, Berry became the highest-ranking openly gay official to serve in the executive branch of a US administration, according to US LGBTI lobby group Human Rights Campaign.
Despite marriage equality advocates already seizing the opportunity to push for reform, co-convenor of the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby Justin Koonin told Star Observer he is sceptical Berry’s appointment will influence policy makers.
“I’m not sure that it will impact an approach to legislation, but I do think that visibility is really important,” he said.
“The fact that gay and lesbian and bi and trans and intersex people are now holding these roles and being open about their sexuality sends a clear message to Australians, and particularly to young people that they can hold the highest office, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Koonin was positive about the appointment, saying LGBTI representation in influential public positions is indicative of broader changes in society.
“John Berry is not the first public servant who’s gay to hold a high office, but I think what we’re seeing in recent years is more and more people willing to be open about their sexuality, and that’s really important.
“I don’t think that it will affect what we do from an advocacy perspective, but hopefully this along with many other changes that we’re seeing in society will compel our politicians and our policy makers to see that it’s a non-issue.”