A senior White House official has said the President Barack Obama believes and accepts Chuck Hagel’s apologies for his anti-gay rhetoric and support of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

US President Barack Obama has named Chuck Hagel as Defense Secretary, despite a backlash over his previous comments on gay rights.

The Republican former US senator has come under renewed criticism from LGBT campaigners for comments he made in 1998, when he described ex-US Ambassador to Luxembourg, James Hormel, as “aggressively gay”. Although he apologised for the comments and the support of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Mr Hormel suggested the apology lacked sincerity and was simply said to be appointed Defense Secretary.

Now, he has been defended by Valerie Jarrett the Senior Advisor to the President and Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls. She wrote on the White House blog: “Recently, some in the LGBT community have expressed concerns about Senator Hagel’s past comments. In response, Senator Hagel issued a statement in which he apologized for comments that he made in the 1990s, and affirmed both his commitment to LGBT civil rights as well as his support for open service and the families of gay and lesbian service members.

She added: “One of the great successes of the LGBT civil rights movement is that it provides the space and opportunity for people to change their hearts and minds, to right past wrongs, and, over time, to evolve.

“The President believes Senator Hagel’s statement of apology, and his commitment to ensuring that all service members and their families are treated equally.

“The President would not have chosen him unless he had every confidence that, working together, they will continue to ensure that our military and DoD civilian workforce are as welcoming, inclusive, and respectful as possible.”

Responding to Monday’s nomination, OutServe-SLDN, which represents LGBT military personnel, said Mr Hagel was undoubtedly qualified, but demanded that he immediately extend full benefits to married LGBT military personnel and otherwise prove his statement that his is “committed to LGBT military families.”