Current Affairs

Gay ally considered as Obama’s running mate

Tony Grew June 23, 2008
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The highest-ranking female officer in the history of the United States Army is a contender for the Democratic party’s Vice Presidential nomination.

Lieutenant General Claudia J Kennedy, a retired three star general, has publicly supported campaigns to end the ban on openly gay, bisexual or lesbian people serving in the US Armed Forces.

While more than a dozen people are being considered as Barack Obama’s running mate, there is a core of his advisers that argue he should appoint a woman to assist him in retaining Democrats and Independents who supported Hillary Clinton’s candidacy.

Ms Kennedy, who served for more than 30 years, has a background in Army Intelligence.

She served as an adviser to John Kerry during his unsuccessful bid for the Presidency in 2004 and endorsed Senator Clinton for President.

Choosing her as the Vice Presidential nominee would help to counter the expected Republican focus on Senator Obama’s perceived lack of military and international experience.

John McCain, a war hero who was held as a prisoner of war by the North Vietnamese for five years, is the Republican nominee.

American voters traditionally warm to military leaders taking political roles.

Most recently former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell served as President Bush’s first Secretary of State and was often talked of as a contender for the White House in his own right.

Presidents such as George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Ulysses S Grant and Dwight D Eisenhower managed to translate their reputation for leadership from the battlefield to the Oval Office.

Other prominent female candidates include a two well-respected state Governors, Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas and Janet Napolitano of Arizona, John McCain’s home state.

However, several strong male candidates are in contention for the VP slot, among them John Edwards, Al Gore, and Senators Joe Biden and Chris Dodd.

Under US federal law passed in 1993 referred to as “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” more than 12,000 men and women have been dismissed because of the sexual orientation.

An estimated 65,000 lesbian and gay service members serve on active duty and in the reserves of the United States military, according to the Servicemembers Legal Defence Network, a non-profit legal services, watchdog and policy organisation dedicated to ending discrimination against and harassment of military personnel.

Barack Obama previously told leading gay publication The Advocate he supports a repeal of the gay ban and is hopeful it can be achieved.

“I think there’s increasing recognition within the Armed Forces that this is a counterproductive strategy,” Senator Obama told The Advocate.

“We’re spending large sums of money to kick highly qualified gays or lesbians out of our military, some of whom possess specialties like Arab-language capabilities that we desperately need.

“That doesn’t make us more safe.”

Polls show that 79% of Americans support allowing gays to serve openly.

Retired high-ranking military leaders, such as former Joint Chiefs Chairman John Shalikashvili, have called for an end to the law, which is estimated to have cost American taxpayers more than $364m (£182m) since its inception.

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