Monday, January 01, 2018

Happy Birthday to Ambassador to Luxembourg James Hormel; First Out U.S. Ambassador

James Hormel was born today, January 1, in 1933. He is an American philanthropist and a former United States Ambassador to Luxembourg; appointed by U.S. President Bill Clinton in 1999, Hormel was the first openly LGBT person to serve as a U.S. Ambassador and is a noted LGBT activist.

Hormel was born in Austin, Minnesota. He is the grandson of George A. Hormel, founder of Hormel Foods (producers of Spam and other processed meat products). 

In 1981 he was one of the founders of the Human Rights Campaign. He was a member of the 1995 United Nations Commission on Human Rights and the 1996 U.S. delegation to the United Nations General Assembly, and the boards of directors of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and the American Foundation for AIDS Research. Hormel funded the creation of James C. Hormel Gay & Lesbian Center at the San Francisco Public Library in 1995. It is the gateway to collections documenting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) history and culture, with a special emphasis on the San Francisco Bay Area.

Hormel was appointed United States Ambassador to Luxembourg by President Bill Clinton in 1999. When he was appointed through a recess appointment, Hormel became the first openly gay man to represent the United States as an ambassador.

Hormel participated in numerous events, including a conference organized in 2004 by Amnesty International in the frame of the Geneva Gay Pride. In 2010 he was given the Lifetime Achievement Grand Marshal Award by San Francisco Pride Board of Directors for his LGBT activism over several decades.

In 1994, President Bill Clinton considered Hormel for the ambassadorship to Fiji, but did not put the nomination forward due to protests from Fiji officials. Gay male sexual acts were punishable with prison sentences in Fiji and Hormel's being open about his sexuality would stand in conflict with the culture.

Hormel was sworn in as ambassador to Luxembourg in June 1999. His partner at the time, Timothy Wu, held the Bible during the ceremony. Also in attendance were Hormel's former wife, his five children, and several of his grandchildren.

Hormel has 14 grandchildren, and 5 great-grandchildren. He currently lives in San Francisco, California with his partner, Michael P. Nguyen.

Hormel and his partner Michael P. Nguyen

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