June 17, 2020 at 6:00 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Eric Fanning, first openly gay Army secretary, endorses Biden
Former Army Secretary Eric Fanning attends the 2018 International LGBTQ Leaders Conference on Dec. 7. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Eric Fanning, who during the Obama administration became the first-ever openly gay Army secretary, has officially thrown his support behind Joseph Biden in the 2020 presidential election.

“I know Vice President Biden will be a commander in chief who leads the world’s greatest military by upholding its values, ensuring our service members have the training they need and care they deserve, while recognizing the contributions of and unique circumstances faced by military spouses and children,” Fanning said in a statement Wednesday. “I am proud to endorse Joe Biden for president of the United States and I hope Americans around the country will join me.” 

In contrast to Richard Grenell, who served as acting director of the Office National Intelligence under Trump without ever seeking or obtaining Senate confirmation, Fanning was confirmed as Army secretary after a drawn out process in which the late Sen. John McCain emerged as his stalwart defender.

Fanning has served as a civilian leader in various military services, including the Navy, Air Force and the Army. Prior to becoming Army secretary, Fanning rose to the position of acting secretary of the Air Force.

“After serving nearly eight years in the Pentagon, in all three military departments, and ultimately as Secretary of the Army, I saw firsthand Joe Biden’s ability to galvanize world leaders and build international consensus while engaging the members of the U.S. military with empathy and integrity,” Fanning said.

During the Obama administration, Fanning witnesses the implementation of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal, same-sex spousal benefits for service members and openly transgender military service. Under the Trump administration, the policy of transgender military service was revoked.

Fanning recalled in his endorsement statement Biden’s role in the process of ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“When I first came to Washington, being gay, lesbian, or bisexual was still grounds for being denied a security clearance, let alone the ability to serve and protect our country,” Fanning said. “Four years ago, I stood next to Joe Biden as he gave the commencement speech at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He opened his remarks by saluting class president and First Captain E.J. Coleman, who had recently come out as gay, thanking him for his courage and saying how proud he was of E.J.” 

“Joe Biden’s leadership in steering repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ensured that E.J. and thousands like him over the past decade were never forced to live a lie in order to serve the country they love,” Fanning concluded.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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