On Friday, Sep. 18, President Barack Obama further advanced his commitment to LGBT rights by nominating the first openly gay civilian secretary to lead the US military.
Obama tapped Eric Fanning, 47, a national security specialist with more than two decades of experience, to be the next Secretary of the Army. Essentially the Army’s CEO, the post is also the highest civilian office in that branch of the armed forces. Fanning’s resume includes serving as acting under-secretary of the Army since June 2015 and playing a lead role in managing the Pentagon’s most important shipbuilding and fighter jet programs.
The appointment marks further progress in the struggle for LGBT acceptance in the US armed forces—something the Obama administration has led the way on. Only in the last four years—with the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”—have gay soldiers been allowed to serve openly. And though “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” did not apply to civilians, the US military has never had an openly gay leader. Earlier this year, Obama backed the Pentagon’s first steps to allow transgender members of the military to serve openly.
Fanning doesn’t have the job yet—the Senate must first confirm his nomination. However, in another sign of this progress, lawmakers are reportedly less focused on Fanning’s gayness than on the tattered state of the Army, which has discharged more than 80,000 soldiers in recent years. Planned budget cuts mean that, if confirmed, Fanning will lead a military service reduced to its smallest size since World War II.