Appointments

01.04.13

Hagel And The "Gay-Equality Lobby"

The news is now all over the place that sources are confirming Chuck Hagel's likely nomination to serve as Barack Obama's next Secretary of Defense. I've been unable to muster the time to respond at length to David Greenberg's rejoinder to my criticisms of his piece about why liberals should oppose Hagel, but suffice to say for the moment that I do think there are some liberal cases to be made against Hagel. One of them is his record on LGBT issues, particularly an offensive remark made in the late 1990s about a potential ambassadorial appointment. Others include a mixed record on climate change and military abortions; both have a bearing on running the military bureaucracy and as such should, like gay equality issues, be thoroughly hashed out in confirmation hearings.

I couldn't help but notice that, In his piece confirming that Obama will pick Hagel, the Daily Beast's Eli Lake makes passing mention of the pro-gay-rights opposition:

While Hagel has a reservoir of support from elite journalists, foreign-policy intellectuals and former government officials, he is not beloved by many other interest groups, including the pro-Israel lobbythe gay-equality lobby, and even Armenian Americans.

Now, I'm guilty of sometimes generalizing special interests groups, too, but the mention here of opposition from the "gay-equality lobby" struck me as especially strange: the link above goes to the Log Cabin Republicans, the gay GOP group. (I asked Lake if he adds links to his pieces himself, and will update if he responds.) There can be no doubt, of course, that LCR does a great service to both the nation and its party by advocating for gay-equality. Their lawsuit, for instance, led to the military's Don't Ask Don't Tell policy being declared unconstitutional.

But it's worth noting here that some gay rights groups changed their tunes after Hagel apologized for his insensitive remarks made a decade and a half ago. Among those accepting the apology were James Hormel, the then-candidate for Ambassador to Luxembourg about whom Hagel made the comments, and the nationals most influential LGBT equality lobby group, the Human Rights Campaign. HRC's president Chad Griffin had this to say in response to Hagel's apology:

Senator Hagel’s apology and his statement of support for LGBT equality is appreciated and shows just how far as a country we have come when a conservative former Senator from Nebraska can have a change of heart on LGBT issues. Our community continues to add allies to our ranks and we’re proud that Senator Hagel is one of them.

Sometimes generalizing makes it easier to write things without lots of qualifiers or lists to explain the exact parameters. But a little caution would be well advised when it comes to making generalizations that hold out a single part as representing the whole. When I generalize, I'm often rightly reminded that the pro-Israel lobby is not a monolith (see, for example, the liberal pro-Israel group J Street's defenses of Hagel). Neither is the gay rights lobby. If a few smaller pro-Israel groups opposed something but the most influential one—AIPAC—supported it, I doubt we'd be hearing that the pro-Israel lobby, in general, opposed it.