James Hormel served an important role in political history as America’s first openly gay diplomat. During his tenure, he served as the US Ambassador to Luxembourg, and before that, he was part of the US delegation to the United Nations.
His rise to the position was tumultuous, as Senate Republicans refused to accept him as Bill Clinton’s nomination as Ambassador on the grounds of Hormel being gay and being pro-gay rights. His confirmation process began in 1997, and it wasn’t until Bill Clinton decided to use his executive powers to sidestep Congress in 1999 that Hormel was able to begin his tenure.
Aside from his political career, Hormel is known for his philanthropic work on behalf of gay rights, helping those with HIV/AIDS, breast cancer research, and public service.
On the morning of August 13th, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi shared the news of Hormel’s passing. He was 88 years old. According to CNN, Pelosi stated, “As the first openly gay Ambassador, he had the courage to be a pioneer and had the patriotism to accept the challenge. He paved the way for a new generation of leaders and (elevated) the voices of LGBTQ voices in our foreign policy.”
He was truly a groundbreaking politician, being one of the first openly gay people to serve in the US government. And Speaker Pelosi wasn’t the only one offering remarks. According to CBS Bay Area, Senator Dianne Feinstein said, “San Francisco lost a great friend today. A philanthropist, civil rights pioneer and loving spouse and father, James Hormel lived an extraordinary life and will be deeply missed by many. Tapped to be the ambassador to Luxembourg by President Clinton in 1997, he was the first openly gay person to serve as an ambassador. While his nomination was controversial at the time, his service was distinguished and helped advance LGBTQ rights both at home and abroad.”