May 9, 2016 at 6:00 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Fanning jokes about stalled confirmation at LGBT military gala
Eric Fanning, gay news, Washington Blade

Eric Fanning joked about his stalled confirmation to become the Army’s first openly gay secretary as he spoke at the American Military Family Association’s annual gala in D.C. on May 7, 2016. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Eric Fanning on Saturday joked about his stalled nomination to become the first openly gay Army secretary during his speech at the American Military Partner Association’s annual gala in D.C.

Fanning asked Edith Windsor, the New York widow who successfully challenged the Defense of Marriage Act before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013, to become his “confirmation campaign manager” after he took the stage at the Hyatt Regency Washington.

President Obama last November nominated Fanning to become Army secretary.

U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, on April 28 tried to prompt a vote on Fanning’s nomination on the Senate floor. U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) blocked it, citing concerns over Obama’s attempts to close Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

Fanning would be the first openly gay person to head any branch of the U.S. military.

“Considering many of us in this room lived the horrors of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ words can’t express how much such a historic nomination means to our community,” said American Military Partner Association President Ashley Broadway-Mack as she introduced Fanning.

Windsor, who was honored during the gala, described Roberts as a “jerk” after she accepted her award.

Fanning, Windsor back openly trans servicemembers

The American Military Family Association also honored Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the case that prompted the U.S. Supreme Court to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples across the country in June 2015.

Thom Kostura and Ijpe DeKoe, a gay couple from Tennessee who were plaintiffs in the Obergefell case, were among those who were also honored at the gala. The American Military Family Association presented an award to Army Cpl. Laila Villanueva, a transgender woman who is married to Air Force Senior Airman Logan Ireland, who is also trans.

Fanning in his speech reiterated his support for trans servicemembers to be able to serve openly.

“We’re all in this together, regardless of race, orientation, gender or gender identity,” he said. “We are not until everyone is able to live up to his or her potential and for us that means the entire L, G, B and T community.”

Windsor also spoke in support of openly trans servicemembers.

“I’m sure we’re all more than disappointed by the delay of the positive transgender action,” she said.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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