Pentagon official Eric Fanning could become the first openly gay Secretary of the US Army, after President Obama nominated him for the position. Fanning needs a confirmation from the Senate before taking the post.
The US president named Fanning as his choice for one of the top civilian positions in the Department of Defense, the White House said on Friday.
"Eric brings many years of proven experience and exceptional leadership to this new role," Obama said in a statement. "I look forward to working with Eric to keep our Army the very best in the world."
Fanning has occupied several senior positions in the Pentagon, including Army undersecretary and acting secretary of the Air Force. He was also special assistant to the Secretary of Defense Ash Carter.
Carter supported Obama's nomination, calling it "an excellent choice."
"Eric served as my first chief of staff at the Pentagon, and it has been a privilege over the course of my career to work alongside him and watch him develop into one of our country's most knowledgeable, dedicated, and experienced public servants," Carter said in a statement.
Fanning's nomination to the post must still be confirmed by the US Senate.
Out of hiding
When Fanning started his carrier at the Department of Defense, homosexuals were still prohibited from serving openly in the army. Under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy homosexuals could not publicly acknowledge their sexual orientation while in the US military.
However, the policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was abandoned in 2011, and Pentagon barred discrimination based on sexual orientation in June 2015.
Obama's move is an important step towards protecting the rights of LGBT individuals, advocacy groups said.
"The Department of Defense has been in a lot of ways a leader in LGBT rights, both in the Obama administration and in government in general," said an activist for LGBT military personnel Matt Thorn.
However, gay people still face inequality within the military, according to Thorn. For example, same sex spouses cannot accompany soldiers to many overseas bases, especially in Gulf countries.
dj/sms (Reuters, AP, dpa)