Karen Ocamb

LGBT Debate Continues Over Prospective Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel

Filed By Karen Ocamb | December 28, 2012 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Chuck Hagel, HRC, James Hormel, Log Cabin Republicans, Secretary of Defense

President Obama has not even announced his nomination of former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) to be Secretary of Defense - Chuck-Hagel-LCR-ad.jpgbut the nomination is already on trial among Washington pundits and politicos who are focused primarily on Hagel's opinions about Israel and remarks made in 1998 about James Hormel whom he said was too "openly aggressively gay" to be ambassador to Luxemburg. Hagel apologized.

"My comments 14 years ago in 1998 were insensitive," Hagel said. "They do not reflect my views or the totality of my public record, and I apologize to Ambassador Hormel and any LGBT Americans who may question my commitment to their civil rights. I am fully supportive of 'open service' and committed to LGBT military families."

The Human Rights Campaign, which was among several national LGBT groups that considered Hagel's comments "unacceptable," accepted his apology. "Senator Hagel's apology and his statement of support for LGBT equality is appreciated and shows just how far as a country we have come when a conservative former Senator from Nebraska can have a change of heart on LGBT issues," HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement. "Our community continues to add allies to our ranks and we're proud that Senator Hagel is one of them."

On Thursday, however, the Log Cabin Republicans took out a full-page ad in the New York Times opposing Hagel. "Chuck Hagel's weak record on preventing nuclear proliferation in Iran, lack of confidence in our ally Israel as well as an aggressive history against the LGBT community is a no-go combination for a Secretary of Defense nominee," R. Clarke Cooper, Executive Director of Log Cabin Republicans, combat veteran and former alternative representative to the UN Security Council, said in a statement.

Steve Clemons, the respected out Washington editor at large for The Atlantic and editor of Atlantic Live, has a good round up of arguments for and against Hagel, - including one from out Ambassador James Hormel, who appears to have also accepted Hagel's apology while also questioning the timing.

James C. Hormel, former US Ambassador to Luxembourg, challenged by Hagel in 1998 as being an inappropriate representative of the US because he was "aggressively homosexual", writes at his Facebook page:

Senator Hagel's apology is significant -- I can't remember a time when a potential presidential nominee apologized for anything. While the timing appears self-serving, the words themselves are unequivocal -- they are a clear apology.

Since 1998, fourteen years have passed, and public attitudes have shifted. Perhaps Senator Hagel has progressed with the times, too. His action affords new stature to the LGBT constituency, whose members still are treated as second class citizens in innumerable ways.

Senator Hagel stated in his remarks that he was willing to support open military service and LGBT military families. If that is a commitment to treat LGBT service members and their families like everybody else, i would support his nomination.

Here's thinker Steve Clemons on Hardball with Chris Matthews:

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