Appointment of first out gay military leader Eric Fanning blocked by Republican Senator
A Republican Senator has blocked the permanent appointment of the first out gay leader of a US military service.
A Committee of the US Senate earlier this year approved the first out gay leader of a US military service.
Eric Fanning was confirmed as the nominee for the Army Secretary by the Senate Armed Services Committee in March.
But now Republican Senator Pat Roberts, of Kansas, whose objections have nothing to do with Fanning’s sexual orientation, has blocked the appointment.
He has asked for assurances that the Obama administration will not move detainees from Guantanamo Bay, when it closes, to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Many Senate Republicans have urged Roberts to stop stalling on the appointment, which is not to do with the Guantanamo situation.
Senator John McCain has pointed out that Fanning would have nought to do in his new role, with the treatment or movement of detainees from and to Guantanamo Bay.
“What’s baffling about this is that Eric has bipartisan support from all corners and nobody disputes his qualifications, record of service or leadership, which is rare in such a high-profile job,” says Chad Griffin, the Human Rights Campaign’s president.
It is hoped that Roberts will back down, and that Fanning can be confirmed before the end of Obama’s final term. If not, he may miss out on the appointment altogether.
Back in September, the White House nominated Eric Fanning to serve as the US Secretary of the Army.
The nomination of Mr Fanning – already the highest ranking openly gay member of the Department of Defense – is hugely poignant, just six years after out soldiers were welcomed for the first time.
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The decision has spent months stalled in the US Congress, with no movement to bring forward a required Confirmation hearing.
The official may have a tough time, however – the Hill reports that Republican lawmaker Pat Roberts is planning to block the appointment to gain leverage over plans to close the Guantanamo Bay detention centre.
Barack Obama said of Mr Fanning previously: “Eric brings many years of proven experience and exceptional leadership to this new role.
“I look forward to working with Eric to keep our Army the very best in the world.”
“I am grateful for his commitment to our men and women in uniform, and I am confident he will help lead America’s Soldiers with distinction.