Former Sen. Chuck Hagel affirmed his commitment to equality for gay servicemembers during his Senate confirmation hearing today. President Barack Obama's nominee for secretary of defense, the Nebraska Republican fielded a number of questions on open service today. Hagel reiterated his commitment to addressing the challenges that remain for gay servicemembers in the wake of the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." "As I've discussed with many of you in our meetings, I am fully committed to implementing the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' and doing everything possible under current law to provide equal benefits to the families of all our service members," Hagel told the Senate Armed Services Committee. Asked by Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) if he would ensure discrimination is not permitted by the Department of Defense while tolerating religious beliefs, Hagel affirmed his commitment to do so. "All men and women deserve the same rights," Hagel said, adding that he would ensure such policies are enforced through the entire chain of command. Addressing the "conscience clause" of the National Defense Authorization Act, Hagel said that while chaplains should not be forced to perform same-sex weddings as stipulated by Pentagon regulations, he said a same-sex military couple should not be denied the right to wed in a military chapel. OutServe-SLDN Executive Director Allyson Robinson lauded Hagel's answers in a statement released shortly after Hagel's hearing concluded eight hours after it began.
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