James Hormel, an out gay man who served as an ambassador for the United States and was a San Francisco philanthropist at the age of 88, has passed away. Nancy Pelosi, House Speaker, announced Hormel’s death on Friday.
From 1999 to 2000 Hormel was the US ambassador to Luxembourg. He faced homophobic attacks as well as fierce opposition to his appointment to foreign envoy.
In October 1997, President Bill Clinton first appointed Hormel to the diplomatic job. Hormel was nominated by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to the full US Senate in 1997. However, conservative Republicans opposed Hormel’s gay rights advocacy blocked a vote.
Clinton renominated Hormel for the position in 1999 and he decided to appoint Hormel under executive privilege. This allowed him to bypass Congress while it was recess.
“The process was very long and strenuous, arduous, insulting, full of misleading statements, full of lies, full of deceit, full of antagonism,” Hormel recalled of his nomination process during a 2012 book event promoting his memoir “Fit to Serve.”
But when I look at the outcome, it’s only a small factor. Ultimately, a lot was achieved. The State Department finally changed its regulations. In the end, other openly homosexual individuals were appointed without the rancor that was involved in my case.”
Hormel, who was born in Austin, Minnesota, was an heir to Hormel Foods, the company that made Spam and Skippy. George Hormel, his grandfather, was the founder of the company.
Hormel was also a member of two US delegations to United Nations before he was appointed ambassador. He was also the dean of students at University of Chicago Law School, where he received his law degree and was cofounder of Human Rights Campaign.
He donated his time to the creation of the San Francisco Public Library’s Gay and Lesbian Center.
Hormel resided in San Francisco with his husband, Michael Nguyen. Hormel is the father of five children born to a previous marriage.
Pelosi, who is a San Francisco representative and officiated at the couple’s marriage, remembered Hormel “a beloved figure within our community.”
Pelosi stated that “as the first openly homosexual Ambassador, he had had the courage and the patriotism necessary to accept the challenge” and added that he “paved the way for a new generation leaders and elevated the voices of LGBTQ voices within our foreign policy.”
Kamala Harris, Vice President and former US Senator from California, was a former attorney general of the state. She praised Hormel for inspiring others.
Harris released a statement saying that Ambassador James Hormel was a remarkable person who made history and made the world a better country. “Jim’s kindness, commitment and concern for human rights, such as his efforts to found the Human Rights Campaign, and advocate for HIV/AIDS-positive people, has changed lives and inspired generations.
Alphonso David, president of Human Rights Campaign, called Hormel a “giant” in the fight for LGBTQ+ equality.
David stated in a statement that David was “a history-making, barrier-breaking diplomat who showed future generations LGBTQ+ young men that there is no limit on what they can accomplish.”