Task Force responds to Senate confirmation of Chuck Hagel for secretary of defense

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is encouraged by  former Sen. Chuck Hagel’s evolution on LGBT issues as the Senate today confirmed him for secretary of defense.

Hagel’s senatorial record on LGBT issues and women’s rights had sparked concern. In 1998, he referred to James Hormel, then President Bill Clinton’s choice for U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg, as “openly, aggressively gay.” He claimed that Hormel’s sexual orientation would be an “inhibiting factor” preventing him from doing “an effective job.” Hagel recently apologized for his remarks, calling them “insensitive.” Hagel had also opposed repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

In addition, as senator he voted against amendments to allow service women to access abortion services at military hospitals, even if they paid for the services on their own. Hagel stated during his first campaign for Senate that exceptions to allow legal abortions in cases of rape were not necessary.

During his confirmation hearings to become secretary of defense, Hagel said he was “fully committed to implementing the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell'” and to “doing everything possible under current law to provide equal benefits to the families of all — all — our service members and their families.” He also said he would work with service chiefs as they officially open combat roles to women, a decision he said he “strongly supports.” Hagel also said he would continue efforts to combat sexual assault in the military.

Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey responded to Hagel’s confirmation today:

Chuck Hagel’s vow to support full implementation of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal, equal benefits for same-sex spouses of service members, and fair treatment of women in the military has been encouraging. We welcome his evolution on these critical issues and look forward to working with him as secretary of defense to ensure full fairness for women and LGBT service members, which includes the removal of Defense Department barriers that prevent transgender people from serving their country openly.