Five years ago, Eric Fanning would have been thrown out of the Army. Now he is poised to lead it. What’s equally stunning, and heartening, is that it’s no big deal.

When President Obama nominated him to be secretary of the Army last week, Fanning became the first openly gay person in line to lead one of America’s military services. While that is a milestone for equality, it appears likely that his Senate confirmation will focus more on his credentials than his sexual orientation.

If it does, Fanning should win quick approval. He has served as undersecretary of the Army and chief of staff to Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter. Before that, he was acting secretary and undersecretary of the Air Force, as well as deputy undersecretary of the Navy.

Military experts call Fanning highly qualified. The man he’d replace, John McHugh (a longtime Republican congressman), praised Fanning’s “sound judgment and insight” and added, “Our soldiers, civilians and their families will benefit greatly from his leadership.” Defense Secretary Carter called Fanning “an excellent choice.”

Sure, some conservative commentators have suggested Obama is playing politics by naming a gay Army chief. Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee said Obama cares more about appeasing gay rights groups than maintaining a strong military.

Overall, though, the response has been notably muted to a move that would have been unthinkable until so recently. Gays were drummed out of the military for all of American history until 2011, after a judge and Congress undid “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Now, just four years later, sexual orientation is far less relevant than Fanning’s record and vision for a military in flux.

We have a ways to go. Some folks think they can ignore Supreme Court rulings on gay equality. But the silence around Eric Fanning’s nomination comes through loud and clear.

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