President Obama has nominated Eric Fanning as secretary of the Army, which could make him the first openly gay leader of one of the U.S. military branches.
“Eric brings many years of proven experience and exceptional leadership to this new role,” Obama said in a statement. “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.”
Fanning has held numerous military posts in the Obama administration including special assistant to Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, acting secretary of the Air Force, and deputy undersecretary of the Navy. Before that, he was deputy director of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, according to the White House.
In a Defense Department statement in July, Fanning said he came out as gay in 1993 and talked about how attitudes at the DOD have changed in recent decades.
“There is a much larger community out there that is looking for opportunities to show its support of us — that’s certainly been my experience as I’ve come out in my professional network, and it’s picking up steam,” Fanning said. “It’s gone from tolerance to acceptance to embrace.”
The nomination is the latest in a series of policy changes and appointments the Obama administration has made that advance the rights of LGBT people in the government. In addition to extending federal benefits to same-sex couples and repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell,” which allowed gays to serve openly in the military, last month, Obama announced the hiring of the first openly transgender White House staffer.
Fanning, who has served as acting undersecretary of the Army since June, still must be confirmed by the Senate.