Mental Health Strike at Kaiser Oakland - 01/01/2024 at 7pm - Learn More >>

Roberta Achtenberg

Roberta Achtenberg is an American attorney, civil rights advocate, and the first openly gay person to be appointed to a federal position and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

After earning her Juris Doctor from the University of Utah in 1975, she spent more than 15 years working as a civil rights attorney, public interest advocate, and nonprofit director. 

Achtenberg came out to her family as a lesbian in 1977 and supported the LGBTQ+ community in her career. In 1978, she founded the National Center for Lesbian Rights with Donna Hitchens. 

After unsuccessfully running for a seat in the California State Assembly, Achtenberg was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1990, where she took on issues including tenants’ rights, wheelchair accessibility, the right of small businesses to compete for city contracts, and the provision of shelters for victims of domestic violence.

In 1993, Achtenberg was appointed Assistant Secretary for the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity by President Bill Clinton, becoming the first “out” LGBTQ+ person to be appointed and confirmed to a position within a cabinet office. 

In 2011, President Barack Obama named Achtenberg as a Commissioner for the United States Commission on Civil Rights, a role she held until 2016.

More from NUHW


Change-makers wanted!
Join our team