Eric Fanning is the first openly gay Secretary of the Army in US history.
‘I’ve gotten used to the fact that this is going to be a part of any time I get a new job or do something,’ he said this week on NBC’s Today Show.
His nomination last fall by President Barack Obama came just five years after the historic end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT).
That law prohibited gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans from serving in the US armed forces openly.
Enacted in the 1990s, DADT prevented Fanning from joining the military himself.
‘I grew up in a military family,’ he said. ‘I have two uncles that went to West Point. And it was absolutely something that I considered, but wasn’t allowed to serve and so chose another route.’
But even that route had roadblocks.
‘I was first in (the Pentagon) in the Clinton administration as a 24-year-old junior aide and I ended up leaving, because I didn’t see that there was a future for me as an openly gay man,’ he said.
‘And so to be able to come back in this job is beyond what I had ever imagined.’
Fanning has been a rising superstar in the Obama administration where he has been the acting secretary of the Air Force and deputy undersecretary of the Navy. He also served as special assistant to Secretary of Defense Ash Carter.
As he rose through the ranks, the 47-year-old did not want much fuss to be made over his being gay.
‘… When it first happened I was more bothered by it because I didn’t quite have the track record that people know now. And I wanted the focus on qualifications. Now I embrace it,’ he said.
‘It’s so important to so many people, I realize. And something I didn’t have 25 years ago.
‘It is the best job that I have ever had — and an incredible honor.’