• Eric Fanning testifies during his confirmation hearing January 21, 2016 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Eric Fanning will be the highest ranking openly gay official in Pentagon history.
Drew Sheldrick

18 May 2016 - 9:52 AM  UPDATED 18 May 2016 - 9:54 AM

The US Senate has confirmed Eric Fanning as Secretary of the US Army, making him the first openly gay leader of an American military service.

Fanning was nominated by President Barack Obama in September last year, but his confirmation had been delayed by Republican senators over concerns about government plans to move detainees from Guantánamo Bay.

“Eric brings many years of proven experience and exceptional leadership to this new role. I am grateful for his commitment to our men and women in uniform, and I am confident he will help lead America's soldiers with distinction," US President Barack Obama said announcing Fanning's nomination in 2015.

Fanning has previously served as undersecretary of the Air Force and chief of staff to US Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

US civil rights organisation the Human Rights Campaign called Fanning's Senate confirmation "historic".

"[Fanning's] confirmation today as Secretary of the US Army is a demonstration of the continued progress towards fairness and equality in our nation’s armed forces," HRC president Chad Griffin said.

"Eric Fanning has spent his career serving this nation with tireless dedication, skill and ability, and as secretary he will bring that same commitment to the men and women of the US Army."

A ban on gay US military personnel serving openly, known as the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, was lifted in 2011, also under President Obama.

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