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US Senate Approves Openly Gay Army Secretary

Eric Fanning's case was held up for 8 months
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 17, 2016 5:50 PM CDT
Senate OKs 1st Openly Gay Leader of US Military Service
In this Jan. 21, 2016 file photo, Army Secretary nominee Eric Fanning testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington.    (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

The Senate confirmed the long-stalled nomination of Eric Fanning to be Army secretary, making him the first openly gay leader of a US military service, the AP reports. The unanimous voice vote approval on Tuesday came after Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., dropped his opposition to Fanning after a senior Pentagon official told him that no detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, would be sent to the Army prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, or other facilities in the US. Roberts said he met May 10 with Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work, who assured Roberts "the clock has run out" on moving Guantanamo detainees to the US mainland. Fanning was up for the post about 8 months ago when Roberts opposed President Obama's pick as a way to block the relocation of detainees, NBC News reports.

"Let me be very clear on this—as a veteran, a Marine—I support Mr. Eric Fanning for this post," said Roberts in April on the Senate floor. "If the White House calls and assures me that terrorists held at Guantanamo will not come to Ft. Leavenworth, I will release the hold—immediately." The White House called it grandstanding, and Sen. John McCain, who is chairman of the Armed Services Committee, begged him to allow Fanning's approval. As for Fanning, he was undersecretary of the Air Force and Defense Secretary Ash Carter's chief of staff, Reuters reports. "This milestone ... will help to continue to set a tone of understanding and respect for the LGBT community throughout the armed services," LGBT activist Matt Thorn tells the Huffington Post. (More gays stories.)

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