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Clinton To Name Lesbian to Sub-Cabinet Job, Source Says With AM-Gays-Military, Bjt

January 27, 1993

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Clinton is poised to nominate Roberta Achtenberg, a gay San Francisco official, to be assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity, government officials said Wednesday.

If she is confirmed, she would be the highest-ranking executive branch official in history who is an acknowledged homosexual.

″She is the intended nominee,″ one government official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers said she could not confirm the report, but said Clinton thinks highly of her. ″I can’t comment on that until an announcement might be ready,″ Myers said.

But a White House source, who asked not to be identified, said Achtenberg ″is slated for that post, yes.″ The source cautioned that the announcement is not imminent and that Clinton could change his mind.

In 1990, Achtenberg was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, which functions as the city council. Achtenberg, 42, spent more than 15 years as a lawyer and executive of gay-rights advocacy groups.

She lives with her partner, Mary Morgan, presiding judge of the San Francisco Municipal Court. They have a 7-year-old son but will not say which of them is the biological mother.

In 1989, she legally represented a lesbian couple - Millie Jensen and Sue Pavlik - who won the right to adopt a 2-year-old boy with AIDS. Achtenberg accused Alameda County adoption workers of footdragging in the case.

″Millie and Sue’s marital status does not determine their parenting abilities,″ she told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Achtenberg is undergoing an FBI background check and when that is completed, the announcement will come from the White House, the government official said.

Achtenberg’s office declined to comment. ″We are not saying anything,″ legislative aide Alex Clemens said Wednesday.

Her appointment to the post in the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which pays $115,700 a year, requires Senate confirmation. Achtenberg is not expected to face trouble there. She would have to be approved by the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, where she has the backing of Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. New York Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, the ranking Republican, is not expected to oppose the appointment.

However, Achtenberg may face trouble from housing public interest groups. Representatives of several of these groups met last week with Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros and voiced concern about what they said was Achtenberg’s lack of experience in fair housing law, according to The Washington Blade, a gay weekly.

Achtenberg was an early backer of Clinton and was on the 1992 Democratic Platform Committee.

If confirmed, Achtenberg would oversee HUD’s fair housing and equal opportunity programs, be responsible for developing affirmative-action programs for the department and work to help increase job opportunities for HUD project residents.

Achtenberg has been one of six San Francisco supervisors in a slim liberal majority on the 11-member board. Should she go to Washington, Mayor Frank Jordan, a Democrat and former police chief who has frequently clashed with the liberal majority, would appoint a replacement.

Achtenberg ran unsuccessfully for the California Assembly in 1988.

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