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Army Secretary Eric Fanning: "Equality and Inclusivity Are Not Experiments"

Army Secretary Eric Fanning: "Equality and Inclusivity Are Not Experiments"

Eric Fanning
Army Secretary Eric Fanning

Speaking at San Diego Pride, the highest-ranking gay person in the armed forces struck back at criticism that a more inclusive military is engaging in "social experimentation."

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Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning, the first openly gay person to lead a branch of the military, struck back Friday night at those who claim the armed forces are engaging in "social experimentation" by embracing LGBT and women's equality.

"Today, when our critics say that the military is not a place for social experimentation, they may be right," Fanning said while addressing the Spirit of Stonewall Rally in San Diego, reports that city's Union-Tribune. "But equality and inclusivity are not experiments. They are American values."

Fanning, the highest-ranking civilian employee in the Army, was also one of the honorary grand marshals of San Diego's Pride parade, held Saturday. Since he first became a Pentagon aide 24 years ago, he has seen the end of bans on gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members, the beginning of the end of the ban on transgender members, and the opening of all combat positions to women.

"For many in our military, Pride in San Diego has special meaning," Fanning said at the rally, in a city with a large military population. "With their actions, they sent a clear message to our country: that it's possible to take deep pride in being part of two great families, the U.S. military and the LGBT community."

In an interview with the Union-Tribune earlier Friday, Fanning noted the importance of LGBT visibility in opening doors. "I thought about my own experience when I first went to the Pentagon. I didn't see anyone else like me in that large building," he said. "Each time I advance in [my] career, I get more attention and more people write to me, and I realize how many other people now see something they didn't see before."

He closed his speech with a reference to the mass shooting at Orlando's Pulse nightclub last month. "We should come together, even as we grieve and mourn," he said, adding that the San Diego celebration felt "bittersweet" because of the Pulse tragedy and the attack Thursday in Nice, France.

"We must respond to acts of cowardice with acts of confidence, with acts of pride in who we are and what we believe," he said.

Below, watch a Union-Tribune video interview with Fanning.

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Army Secretary Eric Fanning: "Equality and Inclusivity Are Not Experiments"

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