- He is married to Ranesh Ramanathan, a partner in the Boston office of Kirkland & Ellis LLP.
President Joe Biden has nominated attorney and political fundraiser Erik D. Ramanathan as Ambassador to Sweden. He is not an Indian American as some news organizations reported. Erik Ramanathan, who is the chairman of the Board of Heluna Health, is married to Ranesh Ramanathan, a partner in the Boston office of Kirkland & Ellis LLP, and has retained his partner’s last name. The Boston-based gay couple has a son, Christopher, born in 2005 from surrogacy.
In 2011, the Ramanathan couple launched the Ramanathan Urgent Opportunities Fund to accelerate Immigration Equality’s efforts on behalf of families like theirs. “Recognizing that we’re at a critical in inflection point,” they had set out “to raise $1 million to ensure the success of Immigration Equality’s top-notch legal program as it wins more asylum cases than ever before and prepares litigation to challenge the Defense of Marriage Act,” per the Immigration Equality website. Together, “they devoted a combined nine years of board service to Immigration Equality, including service as board chair and treasurer, respectively,” the website notes.
Originally from Singapore, Ranesh Ramanathan was an asylee (a person who is seeking or has been granted political asylum) who became a naturalized citizen in 2010 after 21 years in the U.S. In a 2011 video posted on YouTube by Immigration Equality, the couple talks about their struggles and challenges with immigration as a binational couple.
The two met in college, at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, where they were both pre-med students. At the time, Erik Ramanathan was a year ahead of Ranesh. Erik was a sophomore and Ranesh a freshman, both were campus activists — Erik was the president of the college gay group.
After graduating from Johns Hopkins, Ranesh then went to law school in Boston and Erik followed him. For the longest, Ranesh had no status in this country beyond his student visa and the Optional Practical Training work authorization that permits F-1 students to gain work experience in their field of study while in the U.S.
“It’s hard to understand until you’ve actually lived through it, the uncertainty of knowing what tomorrow brings,” Ranesh Ramanathan says in the video. And that is what the couple did from 1992 to 1998, “realistically, all the way through till I became a permanent resident in 2005. Every day we would get up not knowing if that was the day the rug would be pulled out from our feet.” Ranesh Ramanathan got asylum in the U.S. in 1998 via his sexual orientation. “I think it’s a testament to our relationship that we stuck through a lot of it because it was a scary thing to live,” he says.
According to the White House press release, Erik Ramanathan was a member of the Joe Biden 2020 presidential campaign’s national finance committee. The Associated Press reported that Erik Ramanathan was a bundler for Biden’s latest presidential run “and raised major contributions for former President Barack Obama.” He was co-chair of the finance cabinet for Congressman Seth Moulton’s 2016 and 2018 re-election campaigns.
Originally from Rochester, New York, Erik Ramanathan was previously executive director of the Harvard Law School Program on the Legal Profession, before which he was senior vice president – General Counsel of ImClone Systems, a public biotechnology company. He has also held major leadership roles on the non-profit boards of New Politics Leadership Academy, Shady Hill School, and Immigration Equality, America’s leading LGBTQ and HIV-positive immigrant rights organization. Earlier in his career, he was a health care attorney with Proskauer Rose LLP.
Erik Ramanathan earned a B.A. at Johns Hopkins University and a J.D. cum laude from Harvard Law School. He has been an LGBTQ+ community leader for more than three decades and is the recipient of honors including the Global Vision Award for service to the LGBTQ+ and HIV+ immigrant and asylee communities.