For some reason President Obama continues to praise Chuck Hagel and is still considering him for the position of Secretary of Defense despite being made aware of Hagel's past anti-gay comments about Ambassador Hormel in 1998. President Obama says that Hagel has apologized for that comment (14 years later). "With respect to the particular comment that you quoted, he apologized for it," Obama said. "And I think it's a testimony to what has been a positive change over the last decade in terms of people's attitudes about gays and lesbians serving our country."
So Hagel apologized for a comment he deemed "insensitive" not wrong, not bigoted, but "insensitive." And that appears to be enough for President Obama. But that was just one comment. What about Chuck Hagel's actual voting record? This is the voting record of the man whom Obama wants to put in charge of the continuing implementation of the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" (DADT), a repeal that is supposed to allow for open and honest service by gay and lesbian Americans. Has Hagel changed his past views? Does he now apologize for those votes?
Despite Hagel's very recent apparent change of heart, back in 1999 Hagel was on record as being against the repeal of DADT and said that the military was no place for a "social experiment." And it's interesting that Hagel never spoke out during the actual repeal of the policy to note a change of opinion. Back in 2002, and then later in his senate career, Hagel would repeatedly vote against the inclusion of sexual orientation under hate crimes legislation. And though he says he believes it is a state issue, Hagel has made clear that he is also "opposed to gay marriage." In 2006 America's leading gay rights group, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), gave Hagel a rating of zero on gay rights issues.
The sad fact is that gay military members continue to face discrimination in the Armed Forces and serve as second-class soldiers. Military leaders still refuse to support the inclusion of sexual orientation as a protected class under standard military equal opportunity guidelines, and family members of gay soldiers continue to be denied access to military benefits that their heterosexual counterparts take for granted. Transgender Americans are still completely denied the opportunity to serve openly. Chuck Hagel's voting record is clearly anti-gay, and with the exception of refuting his repulsive comments about Ambassador Hormel, Hagel has not disavowed his anti-gay views. Putting a man with such a poor record of LGBT support in charge of the continuing implementation of the repeal of DADT would be a disaster for gay and lesbian soldiers. President Obama could and should do better.
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