In answer to a question from Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Chuck Hagel affirmed that he supports a Pentagon policy that permits military chaplains to perform same-sex marriage as long as such ceremonies are not prohibited in the states where they reside.

"All men and women deserve the same rights," Hagel said, and enforcing those rights will be a "high priority" for him.

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) followed up to ask if Hagel would let army chaplains refuse to conduct same-sex marriages. Hagel affirmed that the Pentagon policy states that chaplains are not required to officiate at same-sex weddings if doing so is counter to their religious or personal beliefs, and that he has no intention of changing that.

The point, he said, was that "we don't want someone to be denied to be married in a chapel or facility."

Opposition from gay rights advocates over disparaging remarks Hagel made in 1998 about an openly gay man nominated for an ambassadorship has largely subsided. James Hormel, the former diplomat Hagel disparaged as “aggressively gay,” endorsed him this week, saying he believes that Hagel’s views have evolved.