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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 11, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 2
Let's hear Chuck Hagel out
Section One
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Let's hear Chuck Hagel out

by Mark Segal - Philadelphia Gay News

Editor's note: On page 3 of this issue, Kevin Naff of the Washington Blade explains why he does not support the nomination of former Sen. Chuck Hagel as defense secretary. Here, PGN publisher Mark Segal offers a contrasting view.

For most of you, the reaction you got when you came out to your parents and the words they subsequently uttered would - if made public - most likely rule them out as contenders for the role of U.S. Secretary of Defense, according to some of our wise LGBT leaders.

President Obama's nominee to replace Leon Panetta as defense secretary is former U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska. Some LGBT leaders have opposed Hagel since 1998, when then-President Bill Clinton nominated Gay rights activist James Hormel to be ambassador to Luxembourg, and Hagel called Hormel 'openly, aggressively Gay.' The point of his comment was that we Americans should not be represented by a Gay person abroad. Hagel's voting record on LGBT-rights legislation was no better.

Let's examine those first two paragraphs together now, and think how your parents first reacted when you came out, versus how they relate to you today. Chances are that they have changed their views quite dramatically.

WHAT HAGEL MUST DO
While I don't know Hagel or his personal views, I know he has apologized for that 1998 remark. For me that is not enough, and I'll explain from experience what would be.

If we as a community refused to work with people who only shared our views of equality in the past, then we'd never pass any legislation. The point is to win over allies. So what someone said in the past is in the past - but only if they have progressed in some capacity on the issue.

Philadelphia's domestic partners bill became law after we won over a councilman who publicly called LGBT people 'Queers and fairies.' He became the swing vote. His comments were worse then Hagel's, and we won him over to full equality. If we had counted him out, we'd not have passed domestic partner legislation. At one point, the number-one homophobe in this city was a man who became mayor. John Street, after intense conversations, soon learned about and came to appreciate the LGBT community. Before his term was over he presided at the wedding of one of his staffers and his partner in City Hall. Street's gradual acceptance opened the floodgates for funding for Gay organizations and for support for LGBT legislation. It's in our best interest to work to help people change, rather then automatically counting them out.

THE HEARINGS WILL TELL
So, I'm not ready to count Hagel as an enemy. I'm open to him proving to our community that he's our friend and will fight for our inclusion and equality. That will come during the Senate confirmation hearings. When asked his views, we'll discover if he's still stuck in 1998 or if like many, including some of your parents, he's advanced.

If you're basing your opposition on his statements from 1998, give us, your parents, and our president a break and assess his ability based on his current positions - none of which you know as of yet, unless you have ESP.

Mark Segal is publisher of Philadelphia Gay News. He can be reached at mark@epgn.com.

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