A measure to judge depth of Sen. Hagel’s support for LGBT civil rightsTrans Progressive Thursday, January 17th, 2013
Commentary: Trans Progressive
There is a measure by which we’ll be able to judge current secretary of defense nominee Chuck Hagel’s support for the LGBT community that I haven’t seen mentioned yet in discussions. Should Sen. Hagel be confirmed as secretary of defense, his legacy on open service for transgender servicemembers will be a plumb line measure for the depth of his commitment to full equality for the LGBT community.
For those who haven’t followed the story, shortly before Sen. Hagel was nominated for secretary of defense by President Obama, his statements regarding the nomination of James Hormel as ambassador to Luxembourg were highlighted by the HRC’s executive director, Chad Griffin. Specifically, Hagel referred to Hormel as “openly, aggressively gay.”
Sen. Hagel later apologized for his 1998 remarks regarding then-Ambassador Hormel, stating in an apology letter, “My comments 14 years ago in 1998 were insensitive. They do not reflect my views or the totality of my public record, and I apologize to Ambassador Hormel and any LGBT Americans who may question my commitment to their civil rights. I am fully supportive of ‘open service’ and committed to LGBT military families.” At first, Ambassador Hormel rejected the apology, but later on Facebook stated that he accepted the apology.
The HRC accepted Sen. Hagel’s apology as well, and OutServe-SLDN – after Sen. Hagel was nominated – came out in support of his nomination.
But let’s step back a moment to Sen. Hagel’s apology statement. He apologized to “any LGBT Americans who may question my commitment to their civil rights.”
Does Sen. Hagel believe that open military service for the T in the LGBT community is a civil right? I would. Many other trans people would too.
It’s doubtful that question will arise in the confirmation process; no one in the Senate will likely ask him what his stance will be on open service for transgender servicemembers.
As OutServe-SLDN’s executive director, Allyson Robinson has pointed out in press releases and interviews, the Department of Defense has yet to issue an antidiscrimination policy based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and hasn’t granted family benefits to the spouses of LGB servicemembers that can be granted even without repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
A true commitment to the civil rights of LGBT servicemembers would certainly include those things, and I would join those who would demand that he live up to his stated commitment.
But without doubt the deepest measure of his support for LGBT Americans will be whether or not a Secretary Hagel would support open service for transgender servicemembers. This is because without doubt it would be the most politically progressive, and the most politically controversial, step of true commitment to LGBT civil rights.
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