MAY 17 2016, 9:54 PM ET
by HALIMAH ABDULLAH and COURTNEY KUBE
In another historic moment for the Obama administration, the Senate on Tuesday evening confirmed the long-stalled nomination of Eric Fanning to be Army secretary.
Fanning becomes the first openly gay leader of any U.S. military service — a milestone not lost on gay rights groups, coming five years after the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," which had prohibited gay and lesbian service members from being open about their sexuality.
Eric Fanning at the 30th Space Symposium Corporate Partnership dinner in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in May 2014. Duncan Wood / U.S. Air Force via AP — file
"Eric Fanning's historic confirmation today as Secretary of the U.S. Army is a demonstration of the continued progress towards fairness and equality in our nation's armed forces," Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said in a statement.
Related: Obama to Nominate Eric Fanning for Army, Would Be 1st Openly Gay Service Chief
Fanning previously served as the Army secretary's principal adviser on management and operation. He was undersecretary of the Air Force from April 2013 to February 2015, and for half a year he was the acting secretary of the Air Force.
"I'm honored by today's Senate confirmation and thrilled to return to lead the total Army team," Fanning said in a statement Tuesday night.
The voice vote to confirm, Fanning, 47, came after Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, dropped his opposition in a dispute over Obama administration efforts to close the prison at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and transfer detainees to the United States.