Chuck Hagel on Thursday pledged to
“move forward expeditiously” on the issue of equal benefits for
gay troops during his Senate confirmation hearing.
Appearing before the Senate Armed
Services Committee considering his nomination for secretary of
defense, Hagel reiterated his support for open service and extending
equal benefits to the families of LGBT service members.
“As I've discussed with many of you
in our meetings, I am fully committed to implementing the repeal of
'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' and doing everything possible under current
law to provide equal benefits to the families of all our service
members,” said Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska and
In a written response he added: “If
confirmed, I will work closely with the Department of Defense
civilian and military leadership to move forward expeditiously on the
issue and will inform the appropriate Congressional committees of
decisions as they are made.”
Allyson Robinson, executive director of
OutServe-SLDN, which advocates on behalf of LGBT service members,
applauded Hagel's remarks.
“After two years of equivocation and
delay by Pentagon leadership, it is gratifying to see Senator Hagel
show the kind of clear, unambiguous support for our service members
and their families we saw today,” she said in a statement. “It
is an historic day when issues critical to gay and lesbian service
members and their families take center stage in a confirmation
hearing for secretary of defense.
Hagel had been attacked as “anti-gay”
in print and television ads paid for by the Log Cabin Republicans and
an anonymous group. Both cited Hagel's poor voting record on gay
rights in the Senate and comments he made in 1998 toward James
Hormel, the openly gay former U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg.
Hagel attacked as anti-gay in anonymous TV ad.)
Hagel recently apologized for calling
Hormel a bad fit for the post of ambassador because he's “openly,
aggressively gay.” And in a letter to California Senator Barbara
Boxer, he endorsed repeal of “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” and
committed to extending equal benefits to the families of LGBT troops.