Newly-formed grassroots group Equal Rep
is developing a campaign to urge President-elect Obama to appoint a
gay man as the next Secretary of the Navy.
“The response has been amazing,”
said founder Paul Sousa. “I have heard from openly gay marines and
navy-men who are really thankful for this action.”
The candidate: Openly gay William
White, chief operating officer of Manhattan's Intrepid Museum
Foundation, who was recently profiled in a Washington Times piece.
Top retired military leaders and some Democrats in Congress endorsed
White in that article.
Retired General Hugh Shelton, who was
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1997 to 2001, said “He
would be phenomenal,” and praised White's fundraising work as
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.
“White is absolutely a serious
candidate,” Sousa told On Top Magazine. “The Obama
transition team wouldn't be vetting him if he wasn't.”
Equal Rep's campaign on behalf of White
is purely supportive. The group is asking for people to call and
email the Obama transition team starting on December 31.
This is the group's second effort; it
also attempted to influence the Obama transition team in its
consideration of Mary Beth Maxwell, an openly lesbian candidate, to
the position of Secretary of Labor. Instead, Obama picked California
Representative Hilda Solis (Democrat) for the job, ending the
aspirations of gay rights leaders for a cabinet-level appointment.
Sousa, whose group gathered over 1,200
confirmed Maxwell supporters, said the loss was “completely
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 have
discharged about 12,5000 soldiers since the policy went into effect
in 1993. President-elect Barack Obama has said he would like to
repeal the gay ban but would wait to build “consensus” on the
The secretary position, however, is a
civilian job and does not fall under the restrictions of the gay ban.
Proponents of the gay ban decried
White's candidacy, calling it “demoralizing.”
“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
Sousa disagrees, pointing out that
repeal of “don't ask, don't tell” is supported by 75% of
On the net: Equal Rep is located at