Former U.S. ambassador James Hormel, who was described by Chuck Hagel as "openly, aggressively gay" during his 1998 Senate confirmation hearings,  expressed support Monday for Hagel's nomination for secretary of defense  in an op-ed in the Advocate.

Even before his nomination became official, advocacy groups voiced their concerns about Hagel's record on gay rights.

Hagel retracted his comments and apologized to Hormel in December, saying he was "fully supportive of open service and committed to LGBT military families."  Hormel responded that Hagel's apology, while appearing "self-serving," was significant enough that he would consider supporting him.

In the Advocate op-ed, Hormel wrote that "times and minds have changed" in the 14 years since Hagel opposed his nomination.

In hearings, Hagel "will need to state clearly his willingness to achieve full equality for all Americans regardless of sexual orientation or identity," Hormel wrote. "If he responds as I anticipate, he will be confirmed and will serve with the same valor that made him a war combat hero."