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.