The first out gay man to be nominated as secretary of the Army finally got his confirmation hearing Thursday — and no one brought up his sexual orientation.
Eric Fanning had stepped down earlier this month as acting secretary of the Army, a job he took in November after the departure of the previous secretary, John McHugh. The Pentagon downplayed Fanning's temporary resignation “as a show of comity” with the U.S. Senate. The Armed Services Committee, led by Sen. John McCain, had indicated concern that he'd illegally taken a job without being confirmed. Another senator, Pat Roberts, had delayed his confirmation hearing in a show of protest over President Obama's plan to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
If confirmed, Fanning would become the first out person to lead the Army or any U.S. military branch. He has 25 years of national security experience, working as undersecretary and acting secretary of the Air Force.
During his hearing Thursday, which lasted more than an hour, Fanning promised senators he'd work to reverse cuts to the Army, reports Defense News. Some were concerned about the effects of those cuts on the states they represent.
No one on the Senate Armed Services Committee, however, asked him about being the first out leader of a military branch, about transgender military service, or about keeping in place the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell."
Fanning was asked about the recent decision to include women in any capacity, including on the front lines of combat, and women joining the elite Army Rangers. For the first time ever, women graduated Ranger school last year.
"I share your view," he told Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst, "that we need to get this right, that it's critical that we get this right."
He assured Ernst, "If you can meet the requirements, then we start from there."
"I don't think you're going to see anything that would look like a rush to judgment," he said. "That would set us back, set back the opportunities for women, and take us more time in the end."
He didn't answer a question about whether women should be required to register for selective service, saying it's being considered by the secretary of Defense.
"I do think if we are focused on equal opportunity, I think a part of that is equal responsibility," he said.
Watch the complete hearing below: