Monday, January 7, 2013

White House Defends President's Choice For Defence Secretary

President Obama & Former Senator Chuck Hagel
Official White House Photo By Pete Souza
By Brody Levesque | WASHINGTON -- President Obama's nomination of former Nebraska GOP Senator Chuck Hagel has stirred up a hornet's nest of criticism from both sides of the political establishment in Washington with some  LGBTQ advocacy groups expressing opposition or doubts as to Hagel's credibility on LGBTQ issues.
In a full page ad in the Washington Post Monday, the Log Cabin Republicans took exception to the president's choice blasting Hagel’s LGBT rights record:
"At Chuck Hagel's request, we looked into the ‘totality’ of his public record on gay rights, and it did nothing to assuage our concerns that his anti-gay record makes him the wrong choice to oversee the ongoing integration of gays and lesbians in the military," stated Gregory T. Angelo, Interim Executive Director of the Log Cabin Republicans." 
Until his name surfaced as a potential nominee for Secretary of Defense, he has stood firmly and aggressively against not only gay marriage, but also against gay people in general. 
Log Cabin Republicans helped lead the charge to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and is extremely invested in seeing that we don’t lose any ground due to a lack of sincere commitment to gay people and their families on the part of the incoming Defense Secretary."
The White House fired back Monday morning with the president's senior domestic advisor, Valerie Jarrett, defending Hagel's nomination in a statement released by the White House:
“Recently, some in the LGBT community have expressed concerns about Senator Hagel's past comments. 
In response, Senator Hagel issued a statement in which he apologized for comments that he made in the 1990s, and affirmed both his commitment to LGBT civil rights as well as his support for open service and the families of gay and lesbian service members. 
One of the great successes of the LGBT civil rights movement is that it provides the space and opportunity for people to change their hearts and minds, to right past wrongs, and, over time, to evolve."
President Obama himself defended his choice, telling David Gregory, moderator of NBC News' Meet The Press last week:
“He apologised for it. 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. 
“And that’s something that I’m very proud to have led. And I think that anybody who serves in my administration understands my attitude and position on those issues.”
OutServe-SLDN Executive Director Allyson Robinson, a group that represents active duty reserve and retired LGBTQ servicemembers noted:
“Senator Hagel is an exceptionally qualified nominee for Secretary of Defense and we believe, if confirmed, he will be an effective leader for the Pentagon. Significant challenges remain for LGBT service members and their families, however, and it’s long overdue that our Secretary address those challenges. 
Our message to the next Secretary of Defense would be the same, no matter who was nominated and confirmed. A commitment to support LGBT service members and their families must be a commitment to action. It’s past time to extend all benefits available to married same-sex military couples and families while the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is still on the books."
A source in the Senate told LGBTQNation Monday afternoon that Hagel's confirmation as the next Defence Secretary promises to be a bruising fight in the Senate as some GOP regulars privately expressed doubts over Hagel's positions on support for Israel and his statements on Iran.
Other LGBTQ advocacy groups indicated that they would also adopt a "wait and see" attitude as expressed by OutServe including Rea Carey, Executive Director National Gay and Lesbian Task Force who said:
"We continue to express our concerns about the nomination of former Sen. Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense due to his poor track record on LGBT equality and reproductive rights. [...] 
Though Chuck Hagel has recently apologized for past anti-gay remarks, we expect him to fully explain his views during the confirmation process and what steps he intends to take as defense secretary to demonstrate his support for LGBT members of the military and their families."