Just hours before President Barack Obama officially nominated former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel to be the next secretary of defense on Monday afternoon, the Log Cabin Republicans, or LCR, made yet another vocal push to denounce Obama’s pick on the grounds that Hagel, a Republican, has a “long history of anti-gay positions.”
The conservative gay-rights group ran another full-page ad in the Washington Post on Monday, this one outlining how the “totality” of Hagel’s public record shows a “dismal” track record when it comes to LGBT rights. Among the group’s complaints are Hagel’s support of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, his opposition to the military’s repealing of its “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and, of course, his comment that an “openly, aggressively gay” man should not be selected to serve as a U.S. ambassador. Hagel apologized for that comment, which was made in 1998, but LCR called the apology “too little, too late.”
Seeing how LCR advocates for the equal treatment of LGBT Americans, its denouncement of Hagel’s anti-gay track record is not surprising. What is surprising, at least to the group’s many critics, is that it took LCR this long to realize that politicians who support anti-gay measures are not deserving of its support. Many gay-rights advocates are no doubt wondering where those principles where when, just three months ago, the group threw its weight behind then-candidate Mitt Romney, who also supported the Defense of Marriage Act.
Indeed, having spent the better part of the last two decades supporting candidates who have willfully worked to impede the gay-rights movement, Log Cabin Republicans are unlikely to find many allies in its crusade against Hagel. The group was founded in the 1970s on the predicate that “the GOP is stronger when it does not alienate LGBT people or their friends and family through anti-gay rhetoric and policies,” but in the eyes of many gay-rights advocates, rectifying that position with a party whose existence depends upon anti-gay special interests is a political impossibility.
In an October blog post, Ned Flaherty, project manager for Marriage Equality USA, blasted LCR for, among other things, its Romney/Ryan endorsement, accusing the group of suffering from a “delusional” devotion to a party that ignores it. Flaherty recognized the group’s good intentions but seemed to see no evidence that its efforts have ever had any effect on the policies of mainstream Republicans.
“After 35 years in their dysfunctional relationship with the Republican Party, these gay conservatives have gotten nowhere and are unable to admit it,” Flaherty wrote.
Dan Savage, the Seattle sex-advice columnist who launched the “It Gets Better” campaign against gay bullying, also slammed LCR for supporting Romney, noting that Romney supported a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage that would “result in the forcible divorce of tens of thousands of legally married same-sex couples in seven states and the District of Columbia.”
In a press release that same week, Jerame Davis, executive director of the gay-rights organization Stonewall Democrats, dismissed the Log Cabin Republicans as a “front group bumbling their way into fooling LGBT voters that it’s OK to support a party that would legislate us back into the closet.”
In addition to making enemies for supporting anti-gay candidates, LCR has also been criticized for the inverse. In May, when Obama came out in support of same-sex marriage, the group called the timing of his comments “offensive” and “callous.” “He does not deserve praise for an announcement that comes a day late and a dollar short,” LCR said in a statement.
Whatever LCR’s reasons for suddenly deciding it cannot support candidates with a poor track record on gay rights, the group is not alone in its denouncement of Hagel. Following Obama’s announcement on Monday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) issued a statement calling Hagel the “wrong man for the job” of secretary of defense. Cantor joins other GOP lawmakers, including Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), in opposing Hagel on the basis of his past comments regarding Israel, which Cantor called “inflammatory” and “well outside the mainstream.” Log Cabin Republicans have also criticized Hagel for his past policies on Israel.
If Hagel is appointed -- following what are sure to be contentious Senate confirmation hearings -- he will be the first Vietnam veteran in history to serve as secretary of defense.