President Barack Obama has selected a gay man to to serve on his Advisory Council on Faith-Based & Neighborhood Partnerships.

Harry Knox, the director of the religion and faith programme at Human Rights Campaign, a Washington-based gay rights group, was one of the eight people chosen yesterday by the president to join the 25-member council.

Knox, a former pastor of a United Methodist Church in Georgia, said in a statement: “I hope this council will draw upon the richness of our unique perspectives to advise the president on policies that will improve the lives of all the people we have been called to serve

“The [gay and lesbian] community is eager to help the administration achieve its goals around economic recovery and fighting poverty, fatherhood and healthy families; inter-religious dialogue; care for the environment; and global poverty, health and development,” he added.

The group helps secular and faith-based groups increase their impact and understand their obligations under the law, according to a White House statement.

Another gay man, Fred Davie, was selected by Obama in February to serve on the council. He is president of Public/Private Ventures, an organisation that helps low-income families.

A notable omission from the new officials is former Indianapolis Colts Coach Tony Dungy, who said he was forced to decline the president’s invitation to join due to scheduling conflicts.

He had supported a 1997 effort to ban gay marriage in Indiana.

However, critics have voiced dismay at the inclusion of Joel Hunter, the former head of anti-gay group Christian Coalition, and Jim Wallis, a vocal opponent of gay marriage, on the council.