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James Hormel, the first LGBTQ U.S. ambassador, dies
2021-08-13

This article shared 1105 times since Fri Aug 13, 2021
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James Catherwood Hormel—the first openly gay man to represent the United States as an ambassador—died Aug. 13 at age 88, media outlets reported.

Hormel was a philanthropist, activist, Human Rights Campaign co-founder and heir to the Hormel meatpacking fortune. He served as the U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg from June 1999 to December 2000. He was married to Alice Turner for a decade before coming out as gay; they had five children.

Hormel supported many organizations and causes, ranging from the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) to the Gay Games that took place in Chicago in 2006. He received many honors over the years. In 2010, he was the lifetime achievement grand marshal for the San Francisco Pride parade, according to the Bay Area Reporter. He was a SF Pride parade community grand marshal in 2005. In 2016, Hormel was honored by the Commonwealth Club of California as its first Champion of Civil Rights and Social Justice Award recipient.

In 1997, James faced discrimination publicly when President Bill Clinton nominated him for U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg. In addition to defamatory press coverage, numerous Republican senators actively blocked the confirmation process, noted a release from Swarthmore College, from which Hormel graduated in 1955 with a B.A. in history.

Following his years at Swarthmore, Hormel received his J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School, where he subsequently was dean of admissions and dean of students.

Tributes and statements poured in concerning Hormel, his passing and his legacy.

National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) Executive Director Imani Rupert-Gordon issued the following statement: "We are saddened by the news of the passing of our dear friend, Jim Hormel. Jim made history as the first openly gay US ambassador when appointed to Luxembourg by President Clinton in 1999. But long before his appointment and for decades beyond, James C. Hormel helped all of us make history."

National AIDS Memorial CEO John Cunningham said, "A longtime friend to the Grove and a champion of justice, we were truly honored that Jim and [husband] Michael [Peter Nguyen Araque] joined us on June 5th in the Grove where we marked 40 years of the AIDS pandemic. The occasion was a gift both to Jim, and all of us—to have him with us on that momentous day when his leadership was also recognized.

"Jim's big heart and sincere compassion was always evident in the dedication he showed for helping others. Whether it was hosting the first "friendraiser" to help with the founding of the Grove—now our nation's memorial to AIDS—or becoming the first openly gay U.S. Ambassador in the face of extreme vitriol, the impact of his bold leadership, on so many issues of profound importance to the lives of so many, will live on in perpetuity."

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement saying, "It is with the deepest sadness and the greatest appreciation for his unsurpassed contributions to our country and society that I learned of the passing of Ambassador Hormel. We will dearly miss him in San Francisco, in our nation and around the world.

"Jim Hormel made history as the first openly gay U.S. Ambassador, paving the way for a new generation of leaders and elevating the voices of LGBTQ voices in our foreign policy. With his gentle yet powerful voice and undaunted determination, Jim made it his mission to fight for dignity and equality for all. As the first openly gay Ambassador, he had the courage to be a pioneer and had the patriotism to accept the challenge.

"When the AIDS epidemic descended upon San Francisco, he called on our conscience and rallied the city to help our neighbors suffering from the ferocious disease. His work served as a model for national policy to defeat HIV/AIDS and improve the lives of all affected.

"Jim's extraordinary life will always serve as a beacon of hope and promise for LGBTQ children across our country and around the world."

LGBTQ Victory Institute President & CEO Mayor Annise Parker issued a separate statement. She said, "Jim's appointment was a breakthrough moment for the LGBTQ rights movement and his successful post in Luxembourg set the stage for future LGBTQ ambassadors facing confirmation. Whereas Jim endured homophobic abuse from anti-LGBTQ U.S. senators that led to his recess appointment, now LGBTQ nominees are largely considered on their merits and qualifications. Jim was a trailblazer and withstood the anti-LGBTQ attacks with dignity, as trailblazers often do. Yet he helped jumpstart a new era where LGBTQ public servants recognized they could serve their country and be out and proud about who they are. His passing is a loss for our movement and our country."

The independent, nonprofit think tank Movement Advancement Project (MAP) also issued a statement about Hormel. MAP Vice Board Chair and David Bohnett Foundation Executive Director Michael Fleming—a longtime friend of Hormel—said, "Jim was not only a colleague and mentor, but he was the living embodiment of someone who, for decades, valued friendships and relationships above all else. While he was most assuredly impatient for change, no one knew how to play the long game so well, and when the right moment came to put pressure on a policy maker or lean into a friendship for the good of the community. Jim's gentle smile and firm grip could always be counted on to seal the deal. I shall miss my friend tremendously."

According to various article, Hormel is survived by Araque, Turner, five children and many other relatives.


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