DENVER — Attacking Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel as “extreme” and someone whose nomination should be opposed, gay rights activists at the Capitol on Monday displayed a distinctly different tack than liberal gay rights leaders in Colorado, who have stayed silent on the former Senator’s previous anti-gay comments.
Monday was the official lobby day for One Colorado, a liberal gay rights organization. Over 200 LGBT activists showed up at the Capitol to press lawmakers to support this year’s civil unions bill and other measures intended to protect gay rights.
When asked about Hagel’s history of anti-gay remarks, many activists thought it should disqualify him as a nominee, and that Senator Michael Bennet, who has yet to state his position on the nomination publicly, should oppose him.
“I find that any person who is in leadership that is opposed to equality of all persons is in the extreme and they need to be called out for it,” said Ray Rodriguez from Longmont.
Hagel has been under attack from gay rights groups, mostly on the right, for his comments during the nomination of James Hormel to be Ambassador to Luxembourg in 1998. He has recently apologized for his remarks, coming after pressure from gay rights groups and allies hoping his previous comments won’t bog down his nomination.
Liberal gay rights leaders have taken a more partisan approach to the matter, keeping silent on Hagel’s history in support of their president’s pick.
Not so with grassroots activists.
“I think that [Senator Bennet] should oppose [Hagel's nomination] just based on the virtue of asshole-ism,” said Patrick from Denver.
He went on to say that having anti-gay views is “simply a sign of being a dick.”
Tim Masterson of Denver agreed: “I agree with that. He’s obviously unrelatable.”
Not all liberal activists were opposed to Hagel’s nomination, though, with some following their leader’s footsteps in supporting Hagel due to him being Obama’s nominee.
“I’ve struggled with [his nomination],” said Jill from Fort Collins. “It’s a tough one. I trust my president’s judgment.”
Conservative gay rights leaders have taken an approach more in line with the grassroots liberal activists than their leadership, opposing Hagel’s nomination and not believing his apology, 14 years after the fact, cuts it.
In a forthcoming Op-Ed, the President of the Colorado Log Cabin Republicans George Gramer writes “No pro-equality Democrat could justify voting to confirm Chuck Hagel if he were nominated by a Republican president. Hagel’s record is no less objectionable, and his belated apologies and flip-flops no more believable just because he was nominated by President Obama.”
“Doing the right thing is most important when it is tough, not when it is easy. Democratic senators need to do the right thing and vote against confirming Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense.”