Tammy Baldwin: I want to find out if Chuck Hagel really has changed on gay rights

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Newly elected Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin, the first openly gay member of the Senate has said that she wishes to meet with Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel to see if his attitudes towards gays has really changed.

On Monday, US President Barack Obama named Chuck Hagel as Defense Secretary, despite a backlash over his previous comments on gay rights.

The Republican former US senator has come under renewed criticism from LGBT campaigners for comments he made in 1998, when he described ex-US Ambassador to Luxembourg, James Hormel, as “aggressively gay”. Although he apologised for the comments and the support of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Mr Hormel suggested the apology lacked sincerity and was simply said to be appointed Defense Secretary.

Ms Baldwin told MSNBC: “I do not know Chuck Hagel.” Adding:”I do want to speak with him, particularly about his comments 14 years ago, to see if his apology is sincere and sufficient. I want to hear how he’s evolved on this issue in the the last 14 years because the significance to the post to which he’s been nominated is the respect for now openly gay members of the military who because of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell can serve openly and we need to see that implemented successfully.”

Yesterday, a senior White House official has said the President Barack Obama believes and accepts Chuck Hagel’s apologies for his anti-gay rhetoric and support of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.