US general backs gay man for Secretary of the Navy

PinkNews logo with white background and rainbow corners

An openly gay man is on the shortlist for the role of Secretary of the Navy in the new Obama administration.

Bill White is currently chief operating officer of the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York.

Openly gay, lesbian and bisexual people are banned from serving in the US Armed Forces, but the sub-Cabinet level position of Secretary of the Navy is a civilian post and it not affected by the ban.

Among Mr White’s backers are General Hugh Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1997 to 2001.

He told the Washington Times that Mr White’s work as a fundraiser for veterans had made him popular in military circles and said  “he would be phenomenal,” as Navy Secretary.

A Democratic Congressman from New York, Jerrold Nadler, told Newsweek that he had been contacted by the Obama Presidential tranistion team about Mr White.

President-elect Obama will take office on January 20th.

He has announced that Robert Gates will remain in post as Defence Secretary, the first holder of that office to serve two Presidents from different political parties.

Subordinate Secretaries of the Navy, Air Force and Army are nominated and approved via Congressional hearings.

President-elect Obama has yet to nominate any LGBT people to his Cabinet, though he did name the openly lesbian deputy Mayor of Los Angeles, Nancy Sutley, as Chair of his Council on Environmental Quality in the White House.

The gay ban, known as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, came into force in 1993.

President-elect Obama has said he wants to repeal it.

The current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mike Mullen, has indicated that DADT is likely to be repealed.

If army personnel are discovered to be LGB then they are sacked, but commanding officers are not allowed to ask about their sexual orientation.

In the past 15 years more than 12,500 personnel have been dischared under DADT.

“The President-elect’s been pretty clear that he wants to address this issue,” Admiral Mullen said an interview about his meeting with President-elect Barack Obama in Chicago last month.

“I am certainly mindful that at some point in time it could come.”

In May Admiral Mullen said that Congress is responsible for the ban on openly lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans from military service.

Speaking to graduating cadets at West Point military academy, Admiral Mike Mullen said that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is a law that the Armed Forces follow.

“Should the law change, the military will carry that out too,” he said.

President-elect Barack Obama backs repeal.

A statement on civil rights posted on the Presidential transition website states:

“Barack Obama agrees with former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili and other military experts that we need to repeal the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.

“The key test for military service should be patriotism, a sense of duty, and a willingness to serve.

“Discrimination should be prohibited. The US government has spent millions of dollars replacing troops kicked out of the military because of their sexual orientation.

“Additionally, more than 300 language experts have been fired under this policy, including more than 50 who are fluent in Arabic.

“Obama will work with military leaders to repeal the current policy and ensure it helps accomplish our national defence goals.”