Dear LGBT Community: Please Leave Chuck Hagel Alone

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Ben Cohen
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When it comes to gay rights issues, you'd be hard pushed to find anyone more supportive than myself. I am pro gay marriage, pro gays in the military, pro gay adoption, and pretty much pro gay anything when it comes to equality in the eyes of the law. I spent time canvassing in California against 'prop 8' (the proposition to amend the Californian constitution's definition of marriage), and regularly write about gay issues on this site. To me, the fight for gay rights is as import as the battle for civil rights in the 60's, and the fight must not stop until total equality is reached.

Generally speaking, the increasingly well organized LGBT community is having a massively positive effect on American politics. Through various organizations, they bring attention to cases of discrimination, lobby politicians to take action and single out individuals responsible for anti-gay legislation. Their hard earned victories have meant gays have unprecedented rights in certain states in America that surpass most countries around the world.

Having said that, I must part ways with them on the recent attacks on President Obama's pick for Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel . LGBT group 'Get Equal' are launching a campaign against Hagel for his record on gay rights issues, demanding he face question about his resume and action while in office. Heather Cronk, managing director for GetEqual, said in a statement:

While Hagel's remarks 15 years ago about Jim Hormel pulled back the window on how he felt then about gay Americans, his voting record seems more in line with those remarks than with the Obama Administration. The majority of his votes in the areas of civil rights, economic justice, and environmental conservation -- the areas articulated as priorities for President Obama's second term -- rank him in the bottom rung of all members of Congress.

I won't argue with Cronk's assessment of Hagel's record on gay rights/economic justice etc. She's entirely correct - Hagel is no friend to the LGBT community, or the poor, or the environment.

However, just as many Christians who would otherwise be Democrats choose to vote Republican on the single issue of abortion, it seems completely pointless and counterproductive to oppose Hagel for a foreign policy position on something completely unrelated. Obama is nominating Hagel to do a job largely on foreign policy, not on gay rights, civil rights, the economy, or the environment. As I argued yesterday, Hagel is about the sanest viable candidate in Washington when it comes to foreign policy. He turned agains the Iraq war, blasted the Bush Administration in withering terms at every given opportunity, wants to engage in meaningful dialogue with Iran and Hamas, and doesn't agree with everything Israel is doing. What more could any rational liberal want from a politician tasked with controlling America's defense department?

Organizations like 'Get Equal' do great work in furthering the gay rights agenda, but they should concentrate their efforts where it would actually help them. Attacking Chuck Hagel does literally nothing for their cause, and actively damages another one - the prospect of a saner, less violent foreign policy.