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Some top retired military leaders and some Democrats in Congress are backing William White, chief operating officer of the Intrepid Museum Foundation, to be the next secretary of the Navy — a move that would put the first openly gay person at the top of one of the services, The Washington Times reported Thursday.

The job is a civilian position, so it would not run afoul of the ban on gays serving in the military.

"He would be phenomenal," retired Gen. Hugh Shelton, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1997 to 2001, was quoted as saying.

Retired members of the Joint Chiefs have contacted Obama’s transition team to urge them to pick White, and members of Congress said he would be a good choice, according to the Times.

Others are in consideration, such as Juan Garcia, a former naval aviator who was defeated for re-election to his seat in the Texas House, the paper reported. Garcia is friends with Obama from their Harvard Law School days and was chairman of Obama’s Texas campaign.

White would likely face questions during a Senate confirmation hearing over how his nomination would square with military policies on gays, the Times noted.

In 1993, President Clinton signed into law a ban, and White House and congressional leaders settled on a new policy known as "don’t ask, don’t tell." Under it, gay servicemembers must keep their sexuality private or face expulsion. About 12,500 people have been discharged under the policy, the Times wrote.

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