Thursday, December 18, 2008

Obama mulls appointing gay man to civilian post as Secretary of the Navy

Jessica Bennett and Daniel Stone have a Newsweek story to the effect that Barack Obama is considering appointing an openly gay man, Bill White, to the post of Secretary of the Navy. Since this is a civilian post, it would not, according to the story, contradict the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy which is supposed to apply only to uniformed service members. It would call political attention to the policy and suggest the idea of a political conflict of interest for the incumbent.

When the debate over gays in the military developed in 1993, I was working for an insurance company that focused on selling life insurance to military officers. When I was well underway with a book that included a lot of material on gays in the military (“Do Ask Do Tell: A Gay Conservative Lashes Back”) I applied for an took a transfer to a company in Minneapolis that had acquired the company. I actually discussed the situation with the company (and previously with attorneys involved in the ban) as to what I perceived as a potential conflict of interest and ethical issue.

The link for the Newsweek story ("Gay Man for Navy Secretary?") is here.

Personally, I feel that if Barack Obama makes this appointment, his argument in Congress for lifting "don't ask don't tell" later (with the Meehan bill or a derivative of it) would, however ironic this sounds, be weakened.

Back in 1989, Pete Williams was appointed Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs when Dick Cheney was named Secretary of Defense. In 1991, while he was a Pentagon spokesman during the Persian Gulf war, Williams was “outed” by Michelangelo Signorile A source for this is an article in NationMaster Encyclopedia, here. Back around 1992, Dick Cheney himself had told the media (asking "why") that the military ban was an "old chestnut" but that he supported the policy nevertheless (he had to).

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