Log Cabin Republicans, a gay group, is running expensive full-page ads in the Washington Post and New York Times opposing Obama’s nomination former Nebraska GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense to replace Californian Leon Panetta.Oh. I see. So what did the Log Cabins think of a politician making these statements?
Log Cabin cites a 1998 Hagel statement opposing Clinton-nominated Luxembourg ambassador James Hormel as “openly, aggressively, gay,” Hagel’s vote for the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, his support for Nebraska’s constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, his 1999 opposition to repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and his opposition to a judicial ruling in 2005 that the Nebraska marriage ban was unconstitutional.
NOW: "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has worked well. We're in the middle of a conflict...I don't have a policy posture as to allowing gays in the military to serve there openly." - 2007.
[Signing anti-gay pledge] I will:
One, support sending a federal Constitutional Amendment defining marraige as the union of one man and one woman to the states for ratification.
... reject the idea that our Founding fathers inserted a right to gay marriage into our Constitueion.
... defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act vigorously in court. - 2012
"I don’t see the need for new or special legislation...ENDA would be an overly broad law that would open a litigation floodgate & unfairly penalize employers..." - 2006What would the Log Cabins think of such a politician? Why, they endorsed him for president, of course! Mitt Romney may be gone, but Romnesia lives on.
It's true that on gay rights, Chuck Hagel has not been on the right side of history for the majority of his career. But that hardly distinguishes him from Washington politicians of the last two decades - including President Clinton, who gave us DADT in the first place, and signed the Defense of Marriage Act into law, in what some say is a betrayal while others term it necessary to stop a Constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriages back then.
Be that as it may, as a gay American, I would be - and anyone commenting on this would be - remiss not to acknowledge the sea-change in American thinking on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Just eight years ago, a vulnerable, unpopular conservative president got re-elected largely on the basis of his support for a Constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality, and his party's successful efforts to enter such discrimination into one state Constitution after another. Today, we have a president who has completed his own journey to end up on the side of marriage equality, and got re-elected while multiple states, by ballot, confirmed the right of equal marriage.
For gay activists, the hurt from past actions can be real, raw, and deep. But many of us do not need to look to Washington or its politicians to see the evolution on the acceptance of gay Americans. We can look at our own families, our own communities, our own backyards. If each of us took the same hardline stand against members of our own families for saying something deeply hurtful and not accept their apologies - the same as the Log Cabins - and a few Left wing gay rights groups - now do against Hagel, how would our world be?
I bet that most each of us who is gay can think of at least one family member - or a close friend - that said something insensitive, something wrong, something hurtful, and worse yet, did something hurtful to us who now regret doing it, and has given us their complete acceptance and apologies. What have we done to them when such apologies have been offered to us? I bet most of us granted that forgiveness and embraced that friend or family member.
As human beings, we cannot live a purpose driven life if our lives are filled with resentment, if we live for revenge, if we lose the capacity to forgive. And we as a people cannot serve a national purpose if our segments harbor resentment, seek revenge, and refuse to forgive. Forgiveness is not easy. But neither is apologizing. Chuck Hagel has apologized for causing hurt. It is up to us, as a community, as human beings, to now appeal to our best angels to forgive.
And if the question is policy, let us recall that Chuck Hagel will be Defense Secretary to the President who repealed Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Let us take comfort in the fact that he will be serving the first sitting president to openly and publicly support marriage equality. He will be serving America's most pro-equality president. Ever. The policies that govern the United States Armed Forces are merely implemented by the Secretary of Defense and other officials in the Department of Defense. But the Constitution does not charge the Secretary with the responsibility to raise and govern the conduct of our national military. It charges Congress to do so by law, and the law is now settled. Don't Ask, Don't Tell is history. It is history because we have a president with the courage to make it history - the same president who has now called on Chuck Hagel to serve as his Defense Secretary.
This is an important point. This president, President Barack Obama, is owed great deference and great trust by our community. I feel that he has often gotten far less than his fair share of trust. Many in our activist community have derided him, called him a coward, and accused him of dragging his feet, just because he wanted to do things right. Just because he wanted to ensure a full, legal repeal of DADT (rather than just an administrative wartime decree). We are far, far beyond the point at which we would need to judge him by his choices of personnel. We are at the point where his trust in someone to serve in his cabinet ought to earn them our trust too, absent some obvious scandal.
Sen. Hagel is a war veteran. He's a wounded hero. When his country called on him to serve, he went. Yes, he did not have the best legislative record in support of LGBT civil rights. But he is not being appointed to head the civil rights division in the Department of Justice. He's being nominated for Secretary of Defense. He has displayed independent judgment on issues like Iraq - independent judgment that is sorely lacking in today's Washington's echo chambers. And on the issue of our rights, he will lead a Pentagon that now embraces open service, under a President who has made it possible.
So despite the hurts and wounds Sen. Hagel's comments and votes have caused our community, I hope that my community looks to the future and not the past. I hope that my community chooses forgiveness and not retribution. I hope that my community chooses to honor the judgment of a president who has fought with us shoulder to shoulder. I hope that my community - and all Americans - welcome a Secretary of Defense who would be the first Vietnam veteran, the first enlisted person to serve in that capacity. I hope that patriots of all stripes - Democrats, Republicans and others, gay and straight, men and women - honor the deep, abiding patriotism of the man now nominated to become Secretary of Defense.