First Lady Laura Bush, Mark Dybul, his partner Jason Claire and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Mark Dybul was sworn in as ambassador on Oct. 10, in a ceremony presided over by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and with First Lady Laura Bush in attendance. He becomes the third openly gay American to hold that position.
He takes on the title of U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, with responsibilities for administering the $15 billion President's Emergency Relief Plan for AIDS Relief ( PEPFAR ) .
Jason Claire, Dybul's partner, held the Bible as the oath of office was administered in the ornate Benjamin Franklin Room, a faux colonial setting crammed with antiques that is built into the seventh-floor space of the modern office building that houses the US Department of State.
'The fight to eradicate AIDS is really one of the great moral callings of our time,' said Secretary Rice. 'Mark is the right person to carry on this great program and this great cause. He brings a deep commitment to the role from his years in public service and in public health.'
'I've seen the results of his work as I've visited PEPFAR projects around the world—from a program in Russia that helps HIV-positive children lead healthy lives, to South Africa's Mothers to Mothers-to-Be program, which helps HIV-positive pregnant women deliver babies free of HIV,' said the First Lady.
'What distinguishes Dr. Dybul is his creativity. For PEPFAR to succeed, its resources must be used wisely. And from the initiative's very beginning, Mark's innovation has helped widen PEPFAR's reach.'
The Secretary often, but not always, administers the oath of office to ambassadors. It is highly unusual for the First Lady or other senior members of the administration to attend such ceremonies.
Dybul is a physician by training, and a protégé of National Institutes of Health [ NIH ] HIV researcher Tony Fauci, in whose lab he conducted clinical trials on treating the disease. He has served in PEPFAR since its creation, advancing as others have departed.
James Hormel became the first openly gay American ambassador in 1999. President Bill Clinton sidestepped opposition from social conservatives in the Senate, led by Jesse Helms, by making a 'recess' appointment that allowed Hormel to serve as ambassador to Luxembourg.
President Bush appointed career diplomat Michael Guest as ambassador to Romania in 2001, with no opposition from the Senate. Dybul likewise breezed through the Senate confirmation process earlier this summer.
Each of the succeeding appointments has carried greater responsibility. They have been an acknowledgement of the greater acceptance of openly gay people among the leadership of this country.