By Chris Huqueriza
Openly Gay former Representative Barney Frank (D-Mass) intensely opposed former Senator Chuck Hagel’s (R-Neb) Secretary of Defense nomination after a series of complaints from LGBT critics.
In 1998, Hagel stated that James Hormel’s gay orientation was an “inhibiting factor” from doing a satisfactory job as Ambassador of Luxembourg during the Clinton administration and described him as “openly, aggressively gay.”
A statement made by Frank’s office on New Year’s Eve stated that “[Hagel] voted consistently against fairness for LGBT people and there does not seem to be any evidence prior to his effort to become Secretary of Defense of any apology or retraction of his attack on James Hormel.”
Hagel issued an apology in December stating his comments were “insensitive.” However, Hormel publicly spoke out against Hagel as never receiving the apology from him and suggested it was made “only in service of his attempt to get the nomination.”
Many critics from the LGBT community have voiced their disapproval of Hagel’s apology, from former Clinton Advisor Richard Socarides to Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.
“I do think there has been an unseemly rush to accept his apology, considering he apologized for being ‘insensitive’ but not quite for being wrong,” Editor Jim Burroway of the Arizona-based blog Box Turtle Bulletin wrote.
The Human Rights Campaign graded Hagel’s history in the Senate as low as zero percent on their scorecard. Hagel vocally opposed gays to serve openly in the military calling it a “social experiment” and voted consistently against pro-gay initiatives.
Hagel added that the Hormel comment “does not represent the totality of my record” and that he was surprised that the LGBT community questioned his “commitment to their civil rights.” He also adds that “he’s fully supportive of open service and committed to LGBT military families.”
According to a “Meet the Press” interview, Obama defended Hagel and the nomination.
“[Hagel] 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.”
The Human Rights Campaign has also issued a statement embracing Hagel’s change of heart. “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,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “Our community continues to add allies to our ranks and we’re proud that Senator Hagel is one of them.”
Frank, who married his longtime partner in Massachusetts this past year, is still not happy with Hagel’s apology.
“The fact that he would call Jim Hormel ‘aggressively gay’ seems to me an indication of the depth of his dislike of us,” Frank said. “If he said I was ‘aggressively gay,’ I would have said, ‘Well maybe.’ But HRC, I was surprised. I don’t know why they would do that.”