Watch: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand Grills Hagel on Violence Against Women, Same-Sex Spousal Benefits in Military
In confirmation hearings that lasted more than eight hours today for his nomination as secretary of Defense, former senator Chuck Hagel reiterated his commitment to treating gay and lesbian soldiers β and their families β equally.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, questioned Hagel about his position on a nuclear Iran, the U.S. alliance with Israel, and finally about sexual assault against women and equality for gay and lesbian service members.
"When we hear reports that there are upwards of 19,000 sexual assaults in the military against women, it's unacceptable," said Sen. Gillibrand. "We also have finally repealed Don't Ask, Don't Tell, but it's difficult for a military spouse to even go to the commissary and be on base or be notified if a spouse is killed in action. I need a strong commitment from you that you will treat our military families and look after them in the way that you would look after your own. I want you to be concerned about every man and woman in the military, that their wellbeing is being looked after, and see real advocacy and leadership, not status quo, not implementing whatever we put forward, but actually fighting for them every single day."
"Well, you have my complete commitment on that," replied Hagel. "I have made that commitment to all the members of the committee that I've spoken to directly and privately. Again, I mentioned that point in my opening statement, you recall. I think I have a pretty clear record on that in my life. I will continue to do that, will do that, and I agree it is not good enough to just say 'zero tolerance.' The whole chain of command needs to be responsible for this, all the way down to the bottom, so I will."
Watch video of the exchange, via C-SPAN, below.