A Senate committee voted Thursday to approve the nomination of Eric Fanning to be Army secretary, putting Fanning one step closer to becoming the first openly gay leader of a U.S. military service.

President Barack Obama nominated Fanning in September.

Fanning stepped down as the acting under secretary of the Army in January. He's previously served as Air Force under secretary, deputy under secretary of the Navy and deputy chief management officer of the Navy.

Matthew Thorn, executive director of the LGBT military group OutServe-SLDN, cheered the move.

“He was nominated for his extensive 25 plus year career within the Department of Defense and the knowledge that he possess about military policy and national security,” Thorn told the Washington Blade. “From his service as the deputy undersecretary and deputy chief management officer for the Department of the Navy, deputy director of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation & Terrorism to most recently serving as the under secretary of the Air Force, acting U.S. Secretary of the Air Force and chief of staff to the secretary of defense his preparedness for this role could not be higher.”

Fanning faces a steep incline in the Senate, where Senator Pat Roberts, a Republican from Kansas, is refusing to consider the nominee to protest President Barack Obama's plan to close Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility.

The nomination reflects a major shift for the Pentagon, which only four-and-a-half years ago dropped its “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” policy that prohibited openly gay troops from serving in the military. As a civilian leader, the policy did not extend to Fanning.