Obama nominates first openly gay service secretary to lead Army

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Obama Taps Eric Fanning as Next Secretary of the Army



U.S. President Barack Obama nominated Eric Fanning to become the next secretary of the Army, the White House said on Friday, paving the way for the first openly gay leader of a military service branch in U.S. history.

Fanning is currently serving as acting Army undersecretary, and previously worked as Air Force undersecretary and chief of staff to U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter. His nomination to the post must still be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

"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."

Carter called Fanning's nomination "an excellent choice" by Obama and said he hoped for a quick Senate confirmation.

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Obama nominates first openly gay service secretary to lead Army
President Barack Obama speaks at the Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience (GLACIER) Conference at Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center in Anchorage, Alaska, Monday, Aug. 31, 2015. Obama opened a historic three-day trip to Alaska aimed at showing solidarity with a state often overlooked by Washington, while using its changing landscape as an urgent call to action on climate change. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
President Barack Obama speaks at the National Clean Energy Summit at the Mandalay Bay Resort Convention Center, Monday, Aug. 24, 2015, in Las Vegas. The President used the speech to announce a set of executive actions and private sector commitments to accelerate America’s transition to cleaner sources of energy and ways to cut energy waste. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 03: US President Barack Obama speaks about climate change during an event in the East Room at the White House August 3, 2015 in Washington, DC. President Obama announced a major climate change plan aimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the nation's coal-burning power plants. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama greets Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval upon his arrival on Air Force One at McCarran International Airport Monday, Aug. 24, 2015, in Las Vegas. Obama traveled to Nevada to speak at the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas and later to a private event for the Nevada State Democratic Party at a residence in Henderson, Nev. (AP Photo/Chase Stevens)
Solar panels used to generate power outside an office building in Los Angeles, California on August 4, 2015. President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan to slash electricity-generated CO2 emissions was welcomed as a courageous step towards a lower-carbon future, but not yet enough to brake dangerous planet warming. Obama announced August 3 that power plant owners must cut carbon dioxide emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. AFP PHOTO / MARK RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama speaks about his Clean Power Plan, Monday, Aug. 3, 2015, in the East Room at the White House in Washington. The president is mandating even steeper greenhouse gas cuts from U.S. power plants than previously expected, while granting states more time and broader options to comply. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
President Barack Obama, accompanied by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy, speaks about his Clean Power Plan, Monday, Aug. 3, 2015, in the East Room at the White House in Washington. The president is mandating even steeper greenhouse gas cuts from U.S. power plants than previously expected, while granting states more time and broader options to comply. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
President Barack Obama arrives to speak about his Clean Power Plan, Monday, Aug. 3, 2015, in the East Room at the White House in Washington. The president is mandating even steeper greenhouse gas cuts from U.S. power plants than previously expected, while granting states more time and broader options to comply. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
NEW LONDON, CT - MAY 20: U.S. President Barack Obama gives the keynote address at commencement exercises at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy on May 20, 2015 in New London, Connecticut. Obama used the occasion to speak about the dangers of global warming to both America and international security. This was the 134th commencement exercises at the prestigious academy. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
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In this Nov. 12, 2014 photo, a sign supporting the proposed Plant Washington, a coal-fire power plant, sits near the site where it would be built in Sandersville, Ga. Deep in rural Georgia, a developer is betting he can build one of the last new coal-fired power plants in the United States as the rest of the country moves away from the fuel. The project, which is being developed by Allied Energy Services, is an outlier. If constructed, Plant Washington would be one of just two planned coal plants in the United States to dodge pending rules from President Barack Obama’s administration severely restricting carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon dioxide is the chief greenhouse gas blamed for global warming. Still, analysts question whether the estimated $2 billion project, which will be built near Sandersville, Georgia, makes financial sense right now. (AP Photo/Ray Henry)
In this Nov. 12, 2014 photo, a road sits next to where the proposed Plant Washington, a coal-fire power plant, would be built in Sandersville, Ga. Deep in rural Georgia, a developer is betting he can build one of the last new coal-fired power plants in the United States as the rest of the country moves away from the fuel. The project, which is being developed by Allied Energy Services, is an outlier. If constructed, Plant Washington would be one of just two planned coal plants in the United States to dodge pending rules from President Barack Obama’s administration severely restricting carbon dioxide emissions. Carbon dioxide is the chief greenhouse gas blamed for global warming. Still, analysts question whether the estimated $2 billion project, which will be built near Sandersville, Georgia, makes financial sense right now. (AP Photo/Ray Henry)
FILE - This Sept. 30, 2014 file photo shows the Colstrip Steam Electric Station operated by Talen Energy in southeastern Montana. Coal companies and their supporters scored a courtroom victory with a U.S. Supreme Court decision that said the Obama administration failed to take potential costs into account when it decided to regulate toxic emissions from many power plants, Monday, June 29, 2015. (AP Photo/Matthew Brown, File)
FILE - In this July 1, 2013, file photo, smoke rises from the Colstrip Steam Electric Station, a coal burning power plant in in Colstrip, Mont. A divided Supreme Court on Monday ruled against the Obama administration’s attempt to limit power plant emissions of mercury and other hazardous air pollutants, but it may only be a temporary setback for regulators who will have another chance to get the process right. The justices split 5-4 along ideological lines to rule that the Environmental Protection Agency failed to take cost into account when it first decided to regulate the toxic emissions from coal- and oil-fired plants. (AP Photo/Matthew Brown, File)
Matthew Anthony, of Atlanta, sits with a sign advocating clean energy jobs while listening to public testimony at a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency hearing on tougher pollution restrictions, Tuesday, July 29, 2014, in Atlanta. In the Republican-heavy Southeast, critics said Tuesday that a plan by President Barack Obama’s administration to cut pollution would raise electricity prices, result in job losses and may not significantly curtail the carbon emissions blamed for global warming. The criticism came as the EPA held the first of two days of public hearings in Atlanta, Denver and Washington on the plan, which would force a 30 percent cut in carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 2030 from levels seen in 2005. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Sierra Club volunteer Alex Burke organizes signs to hand out near the local Environmental Protection Agency offices, on the first of two days of public hearings held by the EPA on President Barack Obama's plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent by 2030, in Denver, Tuesday, July 29, 2014. In hearings, hundreds of people across the country are telling the EPA its new rules for power-plant pollution either go too far or not far enough. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
The Trianel power plant is pictured at the canal in Luenen, Germany, Thursday, July 24, 2014. The 750-megawatt power plant relies completely on coal imports, about half from the U.S. Soon, all of Germany's coal-fired power plants will be dependent on imports, with the country scheduled to halt all coal mining in 2018 when government subsidies end. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
The coal-fired Plant Scherer is shown in operation early Sunday, June 1, 2014, in Juliette, Ga. The Obama administration unveiled a plan Monday to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by nearly a third over the next 15 years, in a sweeping initiative to curb pollutants blamed for global warming. (AP Photo/John Amis)
FILE - In this Feb. 28, 2014, file photo, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy discusses proposed regulations with coal industry leaders at Dakota Gasification Synfuels Plant in Beulah, N.D. In a long-expected skirmish, House Republicans are moving to block President Barack Obama’s plan to limit carbon pollution from new power plants. McCarthy and other officials have said the proposed rule _ the first of two major regulations aimed at limiting carbon pollution from power plants _ is based on carbon reduction methods that are "technically feasible" and under development in at least four sites. (AP Photo/Kevin Cederstrom, file)
FILE - This July 1, 2013 file photo smoke rises from the Colstrip Steam Electric Station, a coal burning power plant in in Colstrip, Mont. The Supreme Court on Monday placed limits on the sole Obama administration program already in place to deal with power plant and factory emissions of gases blamed for global warming. The justices said that the Environmental Protection Agency lacks authority in some cases to force companies to evaluate ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. This rule applies when a company needs a permit to expand facilities or build new ones that would increase overall pollution. Carbon dioxide is the chief gas linked to global warming. (AP Photo/Matthew Brown, File)
President Barack Obama speaks about climate change at Georgetown University in Washington, Tuesday, June 25, 2013. The president is proposing sweeping steps to limit heat-trapping pollution from coal-fired power plants and to boost renewable energy production on federal property, resorting to his executive powers to tackle climate change and sidestepping the partisan gridlock in Congress. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
FILE - In this June 24, 2013, file photo, the Capitol Dome is seen behind the Capitol Power Plant in Washington. Democrats running for election in key states are worried about the political fallout from unprecedented greenhouse-gas limits soon to be announced by fellow Democrat Barack Obama's administration. They wish Obama would wait until after November's elections, but if he doesn't start now the rules won't be in place by the time he leaves office. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
FILE - In this Jan. 19, 2012 file photo, smoke rises in this time exposure image from the stacks of the La Cygne Generating Station coal-fired power plant in La Cygne, Kan. This year the nationís weather has been hotter and more extreme than ever, federal records show. Yet there are two people who arenít talking about it, and they both happen to be running for president. In 2009, President Barack Obama proposed a bill that would have capped power plant carbon dioxide emissions and allowed trading of credits for the right to emit greenhouse gases, but the measure died in Congress. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, Filr)
FILE - In this March 16, 2011 file photo, steam escapes from Exelon Corp.'s nuclear plant in Byron, Ill. Companies that generate electric power with anything other than coal _ and companies that produce cleaner fuels or efficiency technologies are likely to benefit from the Obama Administration's new proposed limits on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. (AP Photo/Robert Ray, File)
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"Eric served as my first chief of staff at the Pentagon, 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," Carter said in a statement.

Advocacy groups said the nomination of an openly gay man to lead a U.S. service branch was a significant sign of progress in protecting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals serving in the world's most powerful military.

The Pentagon updated its equal opportunity policy in June 2015 to bar discrimination based on sexual orientation, a change in policy which Carter announced at a gay and lesbian pride celebration.

That change brought the Pentagon's rules into conformity with the 2011 decision to end the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, which allowed gays and lesbians to serve in the military only if they did not openly acknowledge their sexual orientation.

"The Department of Defense has been in a lot of ways a leader in LGBT rights, both in the Obama administration and in government in general," said Matt Thorn, interim executive director of OutServe-SLDN, an advocacy group for LGBT military personnel.

But LGBT individuals face lingering inequalities within the military, Thorn said. Same-sex spouses cannot accompany servicemembers for deployments to many overseas bases, such as those in Gulf countries, Thorn said.

The LGBT community is also awaiting the results of a study on the implications of lifting a ban on transgender individuals serving openly in the military, the results of which are expected towards the end of this year, Thorn said.

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