Nation’s first openly gay ambassador James Hormel dies

James Hormel celebrates after being sworn in as U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg in 1999
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James Hormel, America’s first openly gay ambassador, died Friday at the age of 88.

Hormel made history when he was appointed by former President Clinton to serve as the ambassador to Luxembourg in 1999.

Beyond his work in diplomacy, he was also remembered for his philanthropy and advocacy for the LGBTQ community.

“San Francisco lost a great friend today,” California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) said in a statement. “A philanthropist, civil rights pioneer and loving spouse and father, James Hormel lived an extraordinary life and will be deeply missed by many.”

“I will miss his kind heart and generous spirit. It’s those qualities that made him such an inspirational figure and beloved part of our city,” she said.

Hormel was born in Minnesota on Jan. 1, 1933. He received a bachelor’s degree in history from Swarthmore College in 1955, and a Juris Doctor from the University of Chicago Law School in 1958.

Before being appointed to ambassador, he donated funds to create the Gay and Lesbian Center at the San Francisco Public Library, which opened in 1995.

Hormel served as an alternate representative to the U.S. delegation to the 51st United Nations General Assembly and was also a member of the U.S. Delegation to the 51st U.N. Human Rights Commission, which met in 1995.

Clinton first appointed Hormel to the Luxembourg ambassador position in 1997, but he wasn’t confirmed at the time amid a contentious confirmation process.

Clinton would later appoint Hormel to the post again in June 1999 as a recess appointment, a method that allows for the temporary filling of a post when the Senate is not in session.

He held the position until 2001.

“Paul and I are heartbroken at the loss of our friend,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement.

“I was honored to officiate at the wedding of Jim and his dear husband Michael. May it be a comfort to Michael, and to Jim’s children Alison, Anne, Elizabeth, James Jr. and Sarah, that so many mourn their loss and pray for them at this sad time,” she said.

“It is true that we stand on the shoulders of the giants who came before us,” Rick Chavez Zbur, executive director of Equity California, said in a statement.

“I am forever grateful for the wisdom and guidance that Jim shared with me and Equality California over the past 25 years, and I am confident that generations of LGBTQ+ diplomats, advocates and community leaders will benefit from his life’s work,” Zbur said.

Tags Dianne Feinstein james hormel Luxembourg Nancy Pelosi U.S. Ambassador

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