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DONNELLY: Issue is defense of homeland, not homosexuality

Hagel hearings should focus on Pentagon mission

Members of the Senate have many reasons to oppose the nomination of Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense, but criticism from LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) groups pushing their causes is not one of them. Senators should be more troubled by Mr. Hagel's opportunistic apology to his LGBT activist critics.

Street theater specialists GetEQUAL and activist Log Cabin Republicans have denounced former senator Hagel for expressing essentially mainstream positions on issues like the Defense of Marriage Act and homosexuals in the military, and for opposing Bill Clinton's 1998 nominee for ambassador to Luxembourg, James C. Hormel.

Initially, most members of the Foreign Relations Committee, including Mr. Hagel, did not object to the wealthy ambassadorial nominee known as Gentleman Jim Hormel. As the confirmation process continued, however, a number of senators raised legitimate questions about the wealthy food company heir's aggressive advocacy of LGBT causes. Mr. Hagel was one of many who objected to the controversial nomination, forcing Bill Clinton to send Mr. Hormel to Luxembourg with a recess appointment.

According to a 1996 San Francisco Examiner article, Mr. Hormel and his ex-wife had five children while they were married. The controversy was less about the nominee's bisexual lifestyle than it was about his open and aggressive activism for LGBT causes that he funded with generous grants. Mr. Hormel's philanthropy primarily benefited ultra-liberal groups like the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), which he co-founded to promote acceptance and normalization of homosexuality in all institutions of American life.

He bestowed $500,000 on the San Francisco Main Library, which was named the "James C. Hormel Gay and Lesbian Center" in his honor. According to the Traditional Values Coalition, which visited the facility, materials and videos available to children included highly inappropriate materials that promoted homosexual conduct as normal.

Mr. Hormel pledged $600,000 to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), backed lawsuits against the Boy Scouts and was a generous patron of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN). He also gave education endowments of $1.5 million for a "Professorship in Social Justice" at his alma mater, Swarthmore College, earmarked with special attention to "social justice issues...pertaining to sexual orientation." 

As reported by columnist Robert Novak at the time, New Hampshire Republican Sen. Robert Smith said of Mr. Hormel, "This is not a tolerance issue. This is a matter of advocacy of the gay lifestyle." Senators James Inhofe and Tim Hutchinson joined Sen. Smith in putting formal holds on the nomination.

According to the Washington Times in November 1999, the Foreign Relations Committee extracted "detailed assurances before and after Mr. Hormel's recess appointment last June that the 66 year-old envoy and his 36 year-old male companion would not become a poster couple for American homosexual activists in the heavily Catholic country [Luxembourg]."

The issue now is not about Mr. Hormel − it's about LGBT intimidation to achieve future political ends. As the activists see it, since the lame-duck Congress rushed to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in 2010, the next secretary of defense should impose the full rainbow spectrum of LGBT Law on our military. In their news release, GetEQUAL mentioned their demands for transgenders in uniform. Senators, therefore, should ask nominee Hagel, "Are you in line with GetEQUAL on transgenders in the military? If not, why not?"

We also need to know whether Chuck Hagel agrees with the administration that women should be ordered into infantry battalions on the same basis as men. If the plan is to take away women's exemptions from direct ground combat, which option would Mr. Hagel choose: a) Relaxed training standards for men so that women can "succeed"; or b) "gender-neutral" training that causes women's injury rates to soar? The U.S. Army, which has failed to design a "gender-neutral" physical training program, is struggling with these questions right now.

When President Obama approved the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act on Jan. 2, his signing statement criticized as "ill-advised" a modest conscience clause in the bill, designed to protect religious liberty for chaplains. Under the administration's interpretation of LGBT Law, chaplains and people of faith are supposed to check their beliefs about sexual morality inside the military chapel door. Would a Secretary Hagel impose intolerance of religious liberty in the name of "tolerance," starting with military chaplains? This is a fair, and important, question.

The complaints of fanatics should not be taken seriously, except as a harbinger of radical policies yet to come. LGBT left leaders seem to think that anyone who disagrees with their agenda should be denied election or appointment to high-level positions. Capitulation to this attitude would imply that persons who question LGBT causes are, by definition, not suitable for public service − or even the opportunity to deliver anInauguration benediction. Republicans must not cave into this outlook.

When confirmation hearings begin, senators should ask the contrarian Republican tough questions about his views on Afghanistan, Iran, Israel, Africa, China, and Korea. What would Mr. Hagel do to maintain superiority in America's armed forces? They should also explore military cultural issues that complicate the lives of men and women who serve.

With dangers increasing around the world, any nominee for secretary of defense should demonstrate good judgment on matters of national defense, not contrived correctness to keep LGBT and feminist critics at bay.

Elaine Donnelly is president of the Center for Military Readiness.

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