Eric Fanning: Senate Confirms First Openly Gay U.S. Army Secretary

On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate confirmed the nomination of Eric Fanning to serve as the U.S. Army Secretary, which makes him the first openly gay leader serving at the Pentagon.

Fanning was nominated for the position by President Barack Obama in September 2015, but that was put on hold by Senator Pat Roberts, a move that was done to counter the plan of the White House to move detainees from Guantanamo Bay in Cuba to Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.

Eric Fanning’s confirmation, according to ABC News, was unanimous, and all senators agreed to the appointment of Fanning, even Senator Roberts. According to Roberts, he released his hold on the confirmation after he was assured that the detainees will remain in Cuba. Senator Roberts met with Robert Work, the Deputy Defense Secretary.

“I believe that because of last week, in a private meeting with Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work, I received the assurance I needed to hear to release my hold on Mr. Fanning. Practically speaking, the clock has run out for the president.”

According to Roberts, he knows that President Obama will still attempt to move detainees from Cuba to Kansas before he steps out of office, but he said that he trusts Robert Work’s word.

“He understands the significant and costly changes that would need to be made at Ft. Leavenworth to change the post’s mission. Most importantly, he understands the legal restrictions on funding to move the detainees to Ft. Leavenworth by January 20, 2017.”

Senator Roberts then added that Eric Fanning has his support, and the move to hold his confirmation was nothing personal against him.

“I look forward to voting for Mr. Fanning who has always had my support for this position.”

Meanwhile, the LGBT community celebrated Eric Fanning’s confirmation as the U.S. Army Secretary. Service personnel followed a “Don’t ask, don’t tell” or DADT policy, which prohibited some service members from being open about their sexual identities. The policy has since been repealed. Chad Griffin, the Human Rights Campaign President, had this to say, as reported by NBC News.

“Eric Fanning’s historic confirmation today as Secretary of the U.S. Army is a demonstration of the continued progress towards fairness and equality in our nation’s armed forces.”

Krysten Sinema, co-chair of the House LGBT Equality Caucus, also released a statement regarding Eric Fanning’s confirmation.

“Secretary-Designate Fanning’s historic confirmation demonstrates that in America, we value hard work, talent and dedication. The capacity in which any individual can faithfully serve our country should not be limited.”

Eric Fanning released a statement on Tuesday night.

“I’m honored by today’s Senate confirmation and thrilled to return to lead the total Army team.”

Eric Fanning spent 25 years serving the government. He had been the acting Army Secretary before his confirmation and also served as the deputy undersecretary of the Navy, deputy chief management officer of the Navy, and the undersecretary of the Air Force. Fanning has always been open about his sexuality, and he supports openly gay persons serving in the military.

[Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images]