AP Photo/Susan Walsh
May 18, 2016 10:35 AM

In a historic vote, the U.S. Senate has confirmed an openly gay man to be the next Secretary of the Army.

Eric Fanning, 47, made history Tuesday night as the first openly gay civilian leader of any U.S. military service.

“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.

Fanning’s appointment becomes five years after the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” – the policy put into place in 1994 which had prohibited gay and lesbian service members from disclosing his or her sexual orientation while serving in the United States armed forces.

The history-making appointment received praise from gay and lesbian activists and political leaders alike.

The vote to confirm Fanning, who was first nominated by President Obama eight months ago, came after the final opposition from Republican Kansas Senator Pat Roberts was dropped.

Roberts, who had nothing but praise for the nominee after his opposition, wanted assurances that prisoners from the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, would not be sent to his state.

“He will be a tremendous leader as Army secretary and will do great by our soldiers at Fort Leavenworth and Fort Riley,” Roberts said before the vote, adding that he always considered Fanning to be the right person to lead the military’s largest branch, of about 470,000 active troops.

Fanning has held several military positions within the Obama administration, including acting secretary of the Air Force and the Army secretary’s principal adviser on management and operation.

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