Narrow-minded senators

Anti-gay bias: Clinton thwarts intolerant GOP by giving Hormel recess appointment as ambassador.

June 08, 1999

BIGOTRY among public officials is shocking. But that's the only way to explain why five Republican senators blocked the appointment of James C. Hormel as U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg for a year and a half.

It wasn't that Mr. Hormel lacked qualifications. He's a former dean of the prestigious University of Chicago Law School. No, Mr. Hormel's "sin," in the eyes of Majority Leader Trent Lott and four other Republicans, was his sexual orientation: He's openly gay.

That didn't bother the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which approved the Hormel nomination, 16-2. But the five Republicans refused to let the full Senate vote. With scant evidence, Mr. Lott accused Mr. Hormel of being anti-Catholic. Critics say Mr. Hormel supports gay causes, which is his right. They made sweeping charges, calling him "a purveyor of smut," and worse. They expressed fear he would use his post to promote a gay-rights agenda -- although Mr. Hormel pledged not to advance any personal goals while ambassador.

President Clinton refused to yield to this truculent Senate minority. Last week, he gave Mr. Hormel a "recess appointment" that sends him to Luxembourg until the end of Mr. Clinton's term.

That the president had to resort to this end-run is shameful. Mr. Hormel's appointment should not have been in doubt. His sexuality should not have been an issue, certainly not on the Senate floor.

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