The New York Times reports:
Since Mr. Hagel’s name emerged as a candidate for the Pentagon last week, he has been sharply criticized for his record on Iran, Israel and militant groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as comments he made about pro-Israel lobbying groups in Washington. The new round of criticism is focused on comments Mr. Hagel made in an interview about James C. Hormel, a San Francisco philanthropist nominated by President Bill Clinton to be ambassador to Luxembourg in 1997.
“They are representing America,” Hagel told The Omaha World-Herald at the time. “They are representing our lifestyle, our values, our standards. And I think it is an inhibiting factor to be gay — openly, aggressively gay like Mr. Hormel — to do an effective job.”
Hagel earned a 0% rating from the Human Rights Campaign for the majority of his Senate tenure, during which he opposed the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” In an interview with the NYT in 1999, Hagel contended that “the U.S. armed forces aren’t some social experiment.”
Although Hagel himself is personally opposed to gay marriage, he voted against a constitutional ban in 2006, believing it to be a “state issue” — a move fellow former Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey calls “an anomaly” in his voting record.
“Senator Hagel’s unacceptable comments about gay people, coupled with his consistent anti-LGBT record in Congress, raise serious questions about where he stands on LGBT equality today,” said HRC President Chad Griffin in a statement. “For him to be an appropriate candidate for any Administration post, he must repudiate his comments about Ambassador Hormel. Additionally, the next Secretary of Defense must be supportive of open service as well as equal benefits for lesbian and gay military families and Senator Hagel must address these issues immediately.”