Openly gay William White, chief
operating officer of Manhattan's Intrepid Museum Foundation, is being
touted by top retired military leaders and some Democrats in Congress
to be the next secretary of the Navy, reports the Washington
Times. If appointed, White would be the first openly gay person
to run one of the three armed forces.
White's qualifications for the job
include his work at the Intrepid, where he has accumulated extensive
contacts in the armed forces, and his years as fundraiser for the
Intrepid Museum Foundation. In 1996, he was awarded the Meritorious
Public Service Award for his work with the Navy.
Several high-ranking retired military
leaders say he is an ideal candidate.
“He would be phenomenal,” said
retired General Hugh Shelton, who was chairman of the Joints Chiefs
of Staff from 1997 to 2001.
But even the mention of an openly gay
candidate to a top military position is drawing fire. Under
then-President Clinton's policy known as “don't ask, don't tell”
gay military personnel are not allowed to serve openly. Gays and
lesbians serving in the armed forces must remain closeted and
celibate under the policy or face expulsion. The armed forces has
discharged about 12,5000 soldiers since the policy went into effect
“It's a matter of judgment, and I
think that would be very poor judgment on the part of the commander
in chief,” said Center for Military Readiness President Elaine
Donnelly, who testified before Congress earlier this year in support
of retaining the prohibition. “It would be very demoralizing for
The secretary position, however, is a
civilian job and does not fall under the restrictions of the gay ban.
President-elect Barack Obama has said
he would like to repeal the gay ban but would wait to build
“consensus” on the issue.
Joe Solmonese, president of the Human
Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay and lesbian rights
advocate, said the appointment would be a “concrete demonstration”
of Obama's commitment to serving all Americans.
The secretary of the Navy was a cabinet
position until 1947, when the White House placed all three armed
forces – the newly created Air Force, Army and Navy – under the
control of the secretary of defense.
A spokesman for White, 41, said: “Mr.
White has no comment on this matter. He considers it truly the
highest privilege to be of service to the brave men and women of our
armed forces, and their families, through his work with the
General Shelton praised White's work as