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James Hormel, first out LGBTQ U.S. ambassador, passes away

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James Hormel, who in 1997 was the first out LGBTQ person to be appointed as a U.S. ambassador, passed away on Friday, Aug. 13.

According to the Bay Area Reporter of San Francisco, died in a San Francisco hospital with his husband at his side and his favorite Beethoven concerto playing. He was 88.

Hormel was opposed for the nomination by Republicans and conservative Christians, blocking any hearings or vote. Then-President Bill Clinton placed him as the ambassador to Luxembourg with a recess appointment.

“This man, unfairly pilloried for simply having the courage to live as an openly-gay man, was eminently qualified and served with honor,” said Dave Bentlin of Bloomington’s Prairie Pride Coalition. “He also was a fierce advocate for lgbtqia+ equality and supported organizations like the Human Rights Campaign that today continue the drive toward equality, social justice, and a better world for the community.”

“Personally, I appreciated his courage, commitment to serving our country, and determination to live his life authentically at a time when there was great pressure to send us back in the closet.”

National organizations also mourned the ambassador.

“A tireless philanthropist, his support for democracy and civil liberties served as a beacon of hope well before supporting LGBTQ causes was fashionable,” said Imani Rupert-Gordon, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR). “Jim was an early supporter of NCLR, always understanding the imperative that the protection of our families is central to our equality, the importance of our intersectional approach to civil rights, and the shared belief that freedoms are inextricably linked, so our fight for justice must include all of us.”

“His support, love, and friendship through the years helped sustain me through many challenging moments,” said former NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell. “He embodied an impish joy even as his resume lauded many accomplishments.”

“Jim’s continued investments in LGBTQ Victory Institute brought stability and growth to our leadership development programs,” said Ruben Gonzales, executive director of LGBTQ Victory Institute. “There are countless LGBTQ appointed and elected officials who were not only inspired by Jim’s public service career, but also participated in internships, candidate trainings and other Victory Institute programs made possible through his support. His generosity will impact LGBTQ representation in government for decades to come.”

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