One Vote Left to Confirm Military’s First Openly Gay Secretary

Eric Fanning
Eric Fanning

Six months after he was nominated by President Obama to serve as Army secretary, Eric Fanning received approval from the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee today, reports the Washington Blade

With the Armed Services Committee’s favorable recommendation, that means a vote from the full Senate is the final hurdle before Fanning becomes the first out person to lead the Army or any U.S. military branch. Fanning is a civilian with 25 years of national security experience, previously working as undersecretary and acting secretary of the Air Force. 

He stepped down from his position as acting secretary of the Army in January, in what was billed “as a show of comity” with the U.S. Senate as Republicans placed his nomination on hold as a protest of Obama’s plans to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. LGBT military advocacy group Outserve-SLDN reports that the senator leading the effort to stall Fanning’s confirmation, Kansas Republican Pat Roberts, still has not signaled that he will allow Fanning’s nomination to come to a vote on the Senate floor. 

“We urge the Senate to move to confirm Eric Fanning quickly,” said Outserve-SLDN executive director Matt Thorn in a statement today. “We are far past the time for a confirmation vote. Our service members are risking their lives to serve and protect our country and should be afforded the respect of having a Secretary who will advocate for them, think about their needs and serve them the way that they serve our country. "

When the Senate Armed Services Committee held its confirmation hearing on Fanning in January, no one asked him a single question about being gay, about transgender Americans serving openly, or whether he would keep in place the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Instead, the more than hour-long hearing chaired by Sen. John McCain saw Fanning pledge to work to reverse cuts to the Army and discuss the recent opening of combat roles to women. 

“I want to applaud my Senate colleagues for their recommendation to confirm Eric Fanning as the new secretary of the Army,” said out New York congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, cochair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus. “This is truly a groundbreaking achievement for the LGBT community and a monumental step forward for our military. Not only is Eric the most qualified, but he will ensure all our service members are treated equal regardless of who they are or who they love.”

LGBT groups that have long been championing Fanning’s inclusion celebrated the news that the Armed Services Committee has advanced Fanning’s nomination to the full Senate. 

“We are thrilled that the Senate Armed Services Committee has advanced the nomination of Eric Fanning as Army Secretary,” said Aisha Moodie-Mills, president and CEO of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund and Institute. “Mr. Fanning is a dedicated public servant who has received bipartisan praise throughout his career. As the military makes progress toward full LGBT inclusion, Eric’s nomination as the first openly gay official to head a military branch is a significant step forward. We applaud President Obama's appointment of Mr. Fanning and call on the Senate to approve his nomination in a timely manner so that he can continue doing what he does best — serving his country as one of the nation’s foremost experts on defense policy.” 

“Mr. Fanning’s credentials for this position are unimpeachable,” added OutServe-SLDN’s Thorn. “He was nominated for his extensive 25 plus year career within the Department of Defense and the knowledge that he possess about military policy and national security. From his service as the deputy undersecretary and deputy chief management officer for the Department of the Navy, deputy director of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism to most recently serving as the Under Secretary of the Air Force, acting U.S. Secretary of the Air Force and Chief of Staff to the Secretary of Defense his preparedness for this role could not be higher.”

“We are thrilled to see Eric Fanning confirmed by the Senate Armed Services Committee,” said American Military Partner Association president Ashley Broadway-Mack in a statement today. “History continues to be written and equality marches forward with the nomination of an openly gay man to serve in this significantly important role. Fanning’s expertise and knowledge within the defense community more than qualifies him to serve as Secretary of the Army. We urge the Senate to move quickly to confirm his appointment."