US gets openly gay Army Secretary – five years after ban on gay soldiers
The US Senate has finally agreed the appointment of the first openly gay official to head a branch of the Armed Forces.
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.
The decision spent months stalled in the US Congress with no movement – with Kansas Republican Pat Roberts blocking his appointment for political reasons – which had nothing to do with Fanning or his sexual orientation.
Roberts asked for assurances that the Obama administration will not move detainees from Guantanamo Bay to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas upon its closure.
However, Roberts dropped his opposition today after private meetings with the Obama administration which he claims assured him detainees wouldn’t be moved.
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His decision allows the nomination to move forward.
Fanning previously served as the Army secretary’s principal adviser on management and operation, and was undersecretary of the Air Force from April 2013 to February 2015.
Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said: “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.
“Eric Fanning has spent his career serving this nation with tireless dedication, skill and ability, and as secretary he will bring that same commitment to the men and women of the U.S. Army.”
Barack Obama said of Mr Fanning previously: “Eric brings many years of proven experience and exceptional leadership to this new role.
“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.
“I look forward to working with Eric to keep our Army the very best in the world.”