WASHINGTON, DC - Today, GetEQUAL - a national civil rights organization urgently advocating for the full federal equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans - reiterated its opposition to President Barack Obama's nomination of Chuck Hagel to the position of Secretary of Defense. Yesterday's announcement of the nomination has increased nationwide criticism of the pick, and has raised questions about Hagel's positions on a broad array of civil rights issues.

After a review of Hagel's 12-year voting record in the U.S. Senate (from the 105th Congress to the 110th Congress), GetEQUAL has found a troubling trend of discord with the stated values of the Obama Administration. While much of the debate over Hagel's nomination has centered on remarks that Hagel made 15 years ago about an openly-gay nominee to be a U.S. Ambassador, his voting record is actually far more worrisome.

During his tenure in the Senate, Hagel scored four percent with the Human Rights Campaign, 14 percent with the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, 12 percent with the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), five percent with the League of Conservation Voters, and seven percent with the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). This is not a voting record that indicates Hagel is in line with the Obama Administration's stated core values.

"With our country facing so many important battles ahead on such crucial issues as immigration reform, climate justice, and gun control, it's baffling why President Obama would spend political capital on a nominee who so clearly is at odds with his Administration's values," said Heather Cronk, managing director for GetEQUAL. "While Hagel's remarks 15 years ago about Jim Hormel pulled back the window on how he felt then about gay Americans, his voting record seems more in line with those remarks than with the Obama Administration. The majority of his votes in the areas of civil rights, economic justice, and environmental conservation - the areas articulated as priorities for President Obama's second term - rank him in the bottom rung of all members of Congress."

If confirmed, Hagel would be the first Secretary of Defense to assume leadership after the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," when important issues around implementation still remain unresolved, such as establishing an equal opportunity system to address discrimination against GLBT service members, incorporating and extending benefits to the families of LGBT soldiers, and pursuing a pathway to enable transgender Americans to serve in the military.

"Hagel's poor public record on civil rights issues - especially women's rights - need to be examined deeply throughout the upcoming Senate confirmation process," said Tanya Domi, board chair for GetEQUAL and a U.S. Army veteran who served honorably for 15 years. "Because Hagel's voting record is so thoroughly at odds with what the Obama Administration articulates as its vision for the next four years, we remain skeptical. Hagel must explain in great detail to members of the Senate Armed Services Committee during his nomination hearings where he stands on equality in the ranks and throughout the country. He owes this explanation to the American public but, more specifically, to service members whose lives would be in his hands, if confirmed."

This article has been republished from Out & About Nashville, and was part of a series of first-person pieces written by the late Bobbi Williams.

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