December 31, 2012 | by Chris Johnson
Frank comes out in opposition to Hagel nomination
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) has come out in opposition to the Hagel nomination (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) has come out in opposition to the Hagel nomination (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Retiring gay Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) announced on Monday that he strongly opposes the nomination of Chuck Hagel as defense secretary based on the former senator’s 1998 anti-gay comments and record on LGBT issues.

“Then-Senator Hagel’s aggressively bigoted opposition to President Clinton’s naming the first openly gay Ambassador in U.S. history was not, as Sen. Hagel now claims, an aberration,” Frank said. “He 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.”

Frank added, “And to those of us who admire and respect Mr. Hormel, Sen. Hagel’s description of him as aggressive can only mean that the Senator strongly objected to Hormel’s reasoned, civil advocacy for LGBT people. I cannot think of any other minority group in the U.S. today where such a negative statement and action made in 1998 would not be an obstacle to a major Presidential appointment.”

Hagel, whom President Obama is reportedly considering as defense secretary, in 1998 was quoted in the Omaha World-Herald as referring to then-nominee for U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg James Hormel as “openly aggressively gay.” On Dec. 14, Hagel issued an apology to media outlets saying the remarks were insensitive, they don’t reflect his totality of public service and that he’s “fully supportive of ‘open service’ and committed to LGBT military families.” At the time, LGBT groups such as the Human Rights Campaign and OutServe-SLDN accepted Hagel’s apology.

But Hagel also has an anti-gay record while serving in Congress. From 2001 to 2006, Hagel consistently scored a “0″ on the Human Rights Campaign’s scorecards. Hagel voted for the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2004, but didn’t cast a vote on the measure in 2006.

In an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” broadcast on Sunday, President Obama said he doesn’t believe Hagel’s 1998 anti-gay comments disqualify him for the role of defense secretary. Obama noted Hagel apologized for the 1998 remarks and called him “somebody who’s done extraordinary work in the United States Senate, somebody who served this country with valor in Vietnam.”

Frank has a reputation for being a loyalist to the Democratic Party and President Obama, so the statement against Obama’s potential pick for defense secretary is particularly noteworthy. The White House didn’t respond to a request to comment on Frank’s remarks.

Story developing…

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

2 Comments
  • I'm with Barney Frank on this one. In addition to the reasons Frank cited, I'd add that issuing a statement in which Hagel claims to be "committed to LGBT military families" indicates that Hagel doesn't understand that the repeal of DADT applied solely to gays and lesbians and it's still very much open season on transgender military personnel in the US armed forces. That kind of ignorance on LGBT issues, especially from a former Senator and someone being considered to be the top civilian leader of our military short of the President himself, concerns me greatly and it should concern anyone who cares about finishing the job of opening the option of military service to all able and willing Americans.

  • While I rarely disagree with Barney and he is a hero of mine- in this case I am not sure that Hagel should be opposed for comments he made 14 years ago and that he has now apologized for.Things are very different for the LGBT community today and many people’s views of our community have changed 180 degrees in the past decade. I know that is thanks to people like Barney.

    I am willing to trust President Obama that he would not appoint anyone who is not committed to fully implementing the repeal of DADT and making sure that Gays and Lesbian’s are fully integrated into the military and receive every benefit that every other person serving our nation is entitled too. Should he appoint him and then Hagel not move forward on that I would hold President Obama responsible.

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