Washington – On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate confirmed Eric Fanning to be Army secretary. Fanning was President Barack Obama’s nomination and he’s the first openly gay leader to serve the military service branch. The new Army secretary was considered in late 2015 but the nomination was held up in the Senate by Republican Kansas Senator Pat Roberts.

The confirmed Army secretary Eric Fanning served as a principal adviser on management and operation of the service to the previous Army secretary. He was undersecretary of Air Force from April 2013 to February 2015. And for half a year was acting secretary of the Air Force, as reported by CBS News.

Eric Fanning is the first openly gay military service leader
Eric Fanning has finally been confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the first openly gay Secretary of the Army. Image Credit: Metro Weekly

Senator Roberts first wanted assurances from the Obama administration. Assurances including that detainees at Guantanamo Bay would not be transferred to the U.S. military prison. This was in response to a promise made by Obama to close the prison in Cuba, as reported by CNN. The detention facility is located at Ft. Leavenworth in Kansas.

Fanning was confirmed by an unanimous vote from the senators. This was after Pentagon leaders assured Sen. Roberts that it was too late for the Obama administration to transfer prisoners from Guantanamo Bay to Robert’s home state.

The assurances were discussed during a private meeting with Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work. He assured the administration would enable to transfer any detainees to the United States from the prison due to funding prohibitions from Congress.

Congress included prohibitions on moving the detainees to the U.S. in annual defense policy bills. According to Sen. Roberts, Obama will continue to try to close the prison before he leaves office in January, but said he takes Work at his word that says it is too late for that.

Sen. Roberts also said he personally called Fanning earlier in the day to tell him he was planning to let him through.

“My issue has never been with Mr. Fanning’s character, his courage or his capability,” Kansas’ senator assured. “He will be a tremendous leader.”

Gay rights’ advocates and groups celebrate the news

Gay groups have been celebrating the fact that Fanning will be taking office soon and fulfilling an important position as the Army secretary. According to Matt Thorn of OutServe-SLDN, Fanning’s sexual orientation has absolutely no bearing on his ability to do the job nor was the reason for his nomination. Thorn is a renowned advocate for LGBT military personnel.

However, this milestone of having an openly gay individual in this high level position within the Department of Defense will help to continue to set a tone of understanding and respect for the LGBT community throughout the armed services, Thorn added.

Source: CNN