Obama nominated first openly gay secretary to lead U.S. Army

This weekend, history has been made. President Barack Obama has nominated Eric Fanning for the next secretary of the Army, making him the first openly gay man to be nominated for the position. “Eric brings many years of proven experience and exceptional leadership to this new role,” Obama said in a statement. “I am confident he will help lead America’s soldiers with distinction.”

Currently, 47-year-old Fanning is serving as acting Army undersecretary after working as Air Force secretary and chief of staff to U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter. Previously, he was also the deputy director of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, and was also an associate producer at CBS News. He has specialized in national security issues for over 20 years and “has played a key role overseeing some of the Pentagon’s biggest shipbuilding and fighter jet programs,” according to the Washington Post.

Though Fanning would be taking on a huge job — heading an army that faces “sharp reductions in troop levels, budget cuts from Congress, and fears of fresh conflict in the Middle East after more than a decade of grueling wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” as Los Angeles Times points out — officials in the military and the White House have full confidence in Fanning due to his extensive experience and knowledge. “Eric served as my first chief of staff at the Pentagon,” Carter said in a statement, “and it has been a privilege over the course of my career to work alongside him and watch him develop into one of our country’s most knowledgeable, dedicated, and experienced public servants.”

This nomination comes just several months after The Pentagon updated its equal opportunity policy, banning discrimination based on sexual orientation — and four years after the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was put to an end. All of these serve as just a few examples of the Obama administration’s fight against discrimination of women and LGBTQ individuals, especially those who wish to serve in the nation’s military.

“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, who came out in 1993, said in a July statement for the U.S. Department of Defense. “It’s gone from tolerance to acceptance to embrace.”

The nomination is “deeply significant,” according to Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT organization. “This is a sign of hope and a demonstration of continued progress towards fairness and equality in our nation’s armed forces,” he said, according to the LA Times. “. . . Eric Fanning is the perfect choice to lead the world’s best-trained, most dedicated, and formidable Army.”

Though it still must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, this nomination goes unprecedented, and it’s a day that has put a crack in the foundation of historic barriers that so many American citizens in the LGBTQ community must face.

(Images via Twitter.)

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