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Gay Nominee for Army Secretary Steps Aside — Temporarily

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Eric Fanning, who would be the first openly gay head of a U.S. military branch, has seen his nomination held up by a dispute over the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison.

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Eric Fanning, the gay man nominated by President Obama to be the next secretary of the Army, has stepped down from his post as acting secretary, a move he hopes will be temporary.

Fanning stepped aside "as a show of comity" with the U.S. Senate, which has yet to approve his nomination, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told the Associated Press Monday.

Fanning, who has been serving as acting secretary since last fall, would be the first openly gay head of any military branch if the Senate confirms his appointment. But Sen. Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican, has placed a hold on Fanning's nomination as a show of protest over Obama's plans to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and transfer its detainees to prisons on U.S. soil.

Human rights activists have criticized the operation at Guantanamo, set up by President George W. Bush to house terrorism suspects, because prisoners are often held for years without trial. Obama has aimed to close it throughout his presidency, but current law prohibits the transfer of its inmates to the U.S. Roberts's move aimed to prevent Obama from taking executive action to close the prison.

In nominating Fanning for secretary of the Army last September, Obama lauded his qualifications, issuing a statement saying, "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."

Fanning has been working in national security for about 25 years. His previous positions include undersecretary and acting secretary of the Air Force. He has been acting secretary of the Army since the previous secretary, John McHugh, stepped down November 1.

The Senate last week confirmed Patrick Murphy, an Iraq war veteran and former congressman, as undersecretary of the Army, so he will oversee the branch until Fanning is confirmed, the AP reports. Fanning will work in another Pentagon post until then and will "focus on achieving confirmation in the near future," Cook told the news service.

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Trudy Ring

Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.
Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.