President Barack Obama on Monday (7 January) formally nominated former Senator Chuck Hagel to lead the US Defense Department.
Hagel has come under for in recent weeks for anti-gay comments he's made in the past but Obama has said he believes his appointee's apology is sincere and has stood by him.
White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett writes on the White House blog: One of the great successes of the LGBT civil rights movement is that it provides the space and opportunity for people to change their hearts and minds, to right past wrongs, and, over time, to evolve. The President believes Senator Hagel's statement of apology, and his commitment to ensuring that all service members and their families are treated equally. The President would not have chosen him unless he had every confidence that, working together, they will continue to ensure that our military and DoD civilian workforce are as welcoming, inclusive, and respectful as possible.'
Hagel last month apologized for comments he made as a Republican senator in 1998 when a gay man, James C. Hormel, was appointed by then-President Bill Clinton to be US ambassador to Luxembourg.
Said Hagel then: 'They are representing America. 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 now says: '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.'