DADT Repeal, a Year Out: Lesbian & Gay Man Get Top Military Jobs
Less than a year after the repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell," a policy that prohibited gay men and women from openly serving in the military, a gay man and a lesbian have been appointed high-ranking military positions.
Last week, Tammy Smith, 49, a 26-year veteran of the Army, was promoted to brigadier general, which made her the first openly gay general officer, the New York Times reported.
She was promoted during a private ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. Her wife, Tracey Hepner, pinned stars on her shoulder, which officially marked her ascent to U.S. Army general.
A spokeswoman for OutServe, an LGBT military organization, told the Times that it was "highly unlikely" that Smith was the only gay general in the country but Smith being open about her sexual orientation was a milestone.
"I would say that it’s important to recognize ’the first,’ because then the next person doesn’t have to be first," Sue Fulton said. "Once we get over each ’first,’ each hurdle of ’Well, that’s never been done before,’ it makes it a nonissue going forward."
Fulton, who said she left the Army because it was difficult to keep a secret lesbian relationship, also told the publication that she was sure Smith’s bosses knew that she was a lesbian when they gave her the promotion.
Servicemembers Legal Defense Networks’ executive director and Army veteran Aubrey Sarvis applauded Smith’s promotion.
"It is indeed a new era in America’s military when our most accomplished leaders are able to recognize who they are and serve the country they love at the same time," he said. "Brigadier General Smith made history today, not only as an exemplary service member who renders outstanding service to our nation with integrity and honor, but as a proud lesbian acknowledging the tremendous sacrifice her family makes in order for her to serve and advance.
"This day was long overdue, but I have no doubt more senior enlisted and officers will follow BG Smith in stepping forward smartly with their spouses and loved ones," he said.
When Smith was a colonel, she was deployed in Afghanistan in December of 2010 to October of 2011 as the chief of Army Reserve Affairs. Additionally, she currently works in Washington as the deputy chief of the Army Reserve.
Smith and Hepner married in Washington, D.C., in March 2011.
Joining the announcement of Smith’s elevation in ranks was another important military appointment, this time to an out-gay man who has served on the board of one of the nation’s most prominent gay rights organizations.
About two weeks ago, President Barak Obama announced that he would nominate Eric Fanning as the next under secretary of the Air Force. Fanning currently serves as deputy under secretary and deputy chief management officer of the Navy, Gay Politics reported.
"I am honored by the president’s announcement, and look forward to working with the Congress and continuing to serve the Department of Defense during the confirmation process," Fanning said. Fanning’s nomination must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate before it goes into effect.
According to the U.S. Air Force’s website, the Air Force under secretary for the Air Force is responsible for "the organizing, training, equipping and providing for the welfare of more than 333,000 active duty men and women, 178,000 Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve members, 182,000 civilians, and their families."
Fanning is a former board member of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and according to Pink News, he also worked for the House Armed Services Committee, the White House, CBS News, the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, Business Executives for National Security and the Office of the Secretary of Defense.