Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Eric Fanning confirmed as the first openly gay Secretary of the Army

On Tuesday, the Senate confirmed the White House's nominee Eric Fanning as the next Secretary of the Army. The landmark confirmation comes after Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan dropped his hold, which was related to Guantanamo Bay detainees rather than Fanning's sexuality. Roberts wanted to ensure that detainees would not be sent to his state, and has dropped the hold due to the high likelihood that the Obama Administration will be unable to close Guantanamo Bay before President Obama leaves office.

Fanning has served as acting Air Force Secretary, and as chief of staff for the Defense Secretary. Regardless of his high qualifications, Fanning has had a surprisingly difficult time being confirmed. After his nomination in September of last year, Sen. John McCain held off confirmations for Defense Department nominees in protest of Democratic rule changes and a veto threat on the 2016 defense policy bill by President Obama. Fanning later served as acting Defense Secretary after former secretary McHugh's retirement in November, but was stopped in January by the Senate.

Fanning's appointment is a historic one, and it's been a shame that it took so long to go through. It's frankly rather ridiculous that such a critical confirmation for the LGBT community and America as a whole was delayed in the name of politics. President Obama's plan to close Guantanamo Bay has been incredibly contentious, but I feel that placing holds on these sorts of symbolic confirmations is a unpleasant negotiation tactic.

What does this nomination mean for the future? Is Obama truly out of time to close Guantanamo Bay? With a possible President Trump on the horizon, what would happen to current and future possible LGBT officials like Fanning?

NYTimes
Mercury News

11 comments:

Annika Olives said...

Thanks for your original post, Eric. The question you raise about what will happen to LGBT individuals with Trump as president is interesting -- the Human Rights Campaign puts out a bunch of facts on the presidential candidates and I found that Trump has a mixed record on this issue. He has said, "I like the idea of amending the Civil Rights Act to include a ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation ... amending the Civil Rights Act would grant the same protection to gay people that we give to other Americans—it’s only fair." However, Trump also supports the First Amendment Defense Act, which would essentially allow discrimination based on sexual orientation at the state level in an effort to protect individual (mainly religious) beliefs on same-sex marriage.

Trump is always rather unclear about his policies, so it's no surprise that he's contradictory in his statements, but I do believe that electing Trump as president would be a step back for the entire LGBT community, (Trump also would "strongly consider" electing Supreme Court judges to reverse the same-sex marriage decision), which is extremely sad considering the milestones that have happened during Obama's administration.

http://www.hrc.org/resources/first-amendment-defense-act
http://www.hrc.org/2016RepublicanFacts/donald-trump

Cami Nemschoff said...

Like Annika, I think that a Trump presidency would be a step back to all the accomplishments, in respect to the LGBT community, that the Obama administration made. However, I would hope that Congress would override any anti-LGBT nominations or legislation encouraged by Trump. The 114th Congress has 7 openly LGBT members, according to Mashable. (http://mashable.com/2015/01/06/congress-mostly-white-male/#N2FTOxU5ZPq8 sorry not the most reliable source but I double checked the information and it appears to be accurate). That being said, it seems that Congress is becoming more and more LGBT friendly, so hopefully not even a Trump Presidency would be able to make strides in the opposite direction.

Steven Lee said...

The nomination of Eric Fanning as Secretary of the Army is progress for the LGBT community. While I do think that this is a great step in the right direction for LGBT rights, I am a little disappointed in this administration's slow acceptance for gay rights. Prior to 2012, Obama was against gay rights and while campaigning for the Senate seat in IL he stated that he believed that marriage should be between a man and woman. That being said, it's nice that Obama is at least changed his position towards progress and for better or worse be considered to be on the "right" side of history. Many GOP leaders such as Mike Huckabee have came out against the move by the administration claiming that he is being very "politically correct" with Mr. Fanning however, looking at his credentials that claim can be easily debunked. Prior to being Secretary of the Army, Mr. Fanning was the Deputy Under Secretary of the Navy, 24th Under Secretary of the Air Force, Secretary of the Air Force, Chief of Staff to the Secretary of Defense, and Under Secretary of the Army.

TJ Bonbright said...

A Trump presidency would be atrocious in general, but specifically it would be detrimental to the LGBT community. Trump can be a bit of a wild card, but it seems that he would make strides to limit the progress of LGBT rights. Despite his opinions on the matter, however, I feel that it would be difficult to retract some of the rights already given to LGBT individuals simply because taking away rights is not a very popular opinion in general. It is the same concept as defunding Social Security. Once people have benefits/rights, there will be a huge backlash to stripping those rights away. The logic behind the action would not seem to convincing either, for it is basically saying "just kidding, these people actually don't deserve these rights after all." So even if we are stuck with a President Trump, I feel that it does not necessarily mean every favorable LGBT case will be overturned. On the other hand, we will definitely see progress grind to a halt. Withholding rights is much easier than taking away rights, after all.

Langston Swiecki said...

While it is somewhat saddening to see such vigorous opposition to the nomination of a prominent member of the LGBT community, I find it sadder still that it additionally was done to weigh down an already mired government and presidency. This move both delayed an ideological victory and eliminated the potential for substantive action on a prison that evokes recollections one of America'stints with imperialism layered with nationalism and yellow journalism (Spanish-American War, anyone?). To see the extremity to which divided government can go in neutralizing action and substantive progress, it is a small reconciliation to see the advancements in equality over Obama's administration, as it feels more like a concession, receiving a participation prize instead of taking home the big turkey with some gravy on top.

Jessica Yeh said...

I agree with the previous comments; no matter who becomes president, retracting rights for the LGBT community is very unlikely, and progress would hopefully be stalled at most. In addition, I'm not certain how long Fanning will be in office, and no source I found directly gave an answer. The Secretary of the Army does not have a fixed term, but if it is like Presidential Cabinet members, then it is customary for them to resign with a change in presidency. It appears that several Secretaries of the Army have served during two presidencies, so this may not be the case for Fanning, but the other new Secretaries as part of Trump's hypothetical cabinet would but interesting to see (though I'd rather not get to that point). In any case, I doubt any president could remove a highly qualified person like Fanning from such a visible position without facing a lot of backlash.

Scott Liu said...


I think it is proper to point fingers at McCain or Trump and section off the problem into an issue with politicians in DC or old white men in the Senate in general. Even though it is true they maintain opinions we might not agree with, it is also true that it is just the nature of their job to appease what we think as voters. You have to try to actively get re-elected. It might be easier to contemplate this issue if we consider that given defense spending has been a popular issue in the right and gay rights has been a less popular issue. An openly gay man taking on the role of army secretary might be incongruous to the vision and ideals of conservative voters. When we think about it this way, the problem is less system but cultural. We should be thinking about ourselves in the context of the world we live in, not just the context of the Bay Area, when we judge the process or decision as being morally right or wrong.

Jessica Westmont said...

Considering the 'don't ask, don't tell" policy was abolished relatively recently, I would say this is a big step for the LGBT community within the military. This appointment probably means their will be many more openly gay men serving in the U.S. army. If one of the leaders of the army is open about their sexuality, many others will not fear coming out as much. Also yes, it is too late for Obama to close Guantanamo bay. He has been saying he was going to do it forever and it has not been done. As for Trump, I do not know what decisions he would make about open LGBTs in the military. He is constantly changing his stance, it is hard to keep up.

Andrew Wang said...

I think that this nomination is a good step in the right direction, as more and more equality is introduced in the government, the more opportunities there will be. While I think that Trump still has a long way to go before he is even able to even see the first step of the White House, it is a good point to raise as to what Presidents in the future might put into consideration such as sexual orientation, race, and other factors into examination before actually seeing if they are fit for the job.

The future Guantanamo Bay, however, remains unclear as there is quite a lot of resistance by Congress to come to an agreement on the procedure to close the camp. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, there are still 80 prisoners at GMTO (as of April 2016), and a quarter of them are scheduled for release, and another quarter are deemed to dangerous to release. There are many more factors for this camp to be closed and i do not this it will be resolved by the end of Obama's presidency.

Alex Binsacca said...

I think this is much less about Guantanamo Bay and more about what a huge step this is for the United States as a whole. I for one am very happy to see such success and for an open homosexual man to be able to obtain such a role within the government. I think (or at least hope) that Fanning is one of many new officials who will be open about their sexual orientation, and still obtain higher rankings within the government.
However, if Trump wins the election then this future will regress to the past. I feel as though he will try his hardest to undo every progressive step in the recent years that has helped gay or bisexuals. The reason I believe this is because he has already admitted to wanting to revoke the right for gay people to get married. As such, if Trump gets elected, this hopeful future will only be nothing more than hope.
Also I would like to bring up the question of what does this mean for organizations who still act hostile towards openly gay people? (Such as the NFL) Will this change encourage those organizations or not?

Christopher Duan said...

This nomination means just that: there is now a new Secretary of the Army. I think that whether someone is gay or straight plays no role in the position or job they can seek. Personal lives play no roles in heir carrying out of critical job duties. With Trump likely on the ballot in November, I think that his possible election would not mean much for current and future possible LGBT officials like Fanning. They will not be removed for their sexuality, and if Mr. Trump decides to do so, it will be another mark against his character that has already taken so many blows from both the left and the right. However, in terms of appointment, LGBT candidates for presidential appointment may have a harder time seeking these positions. In response to Alex's comment, I am more optimistic on the future, and while not much progress will be made, I have yet to hear Mr. trump talking about taking away rights of homosexuals.