The other Republican smear

By James C. Hormel Jr.
Published April 10, 1998 7:00PM (EDT)

When I was 11 years old, my father, James Hormel, told me that he was gay.

I didn't find this an easy bit of information to digest, but I heard my father's great concern for how this disclosure would affect me. This was not a lifestyle choice. Being gay was part of his personal makeup, something he had struggled with greatly his whole life.

Six months ago, President Clinton nominated my father to be U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg. This has made us, as a family, quite proud. When my father sat before the Senate at his confirmation hearing, the entire family -- including my mother and stepfather -- attended to show our unified support. After hearing nothing but high praise from committee members and other senators, we felt sure that a vote of approval would follow. The Foreign Relations Committee approved his nomination by a 16-2 vote.

A week later, we learned that several senators had placed "holds" on the nomination, allowing other senators time to launch a smear campaign. Some have said my father would use his position to advance a "gay agenda." Last week, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott rejected pleas from 42 senators to lift the holds.

My father has dedicated a majority of his work throughout his life to philanthropy and diplomacy. He is committed to helping others. His qualifications as a diplomat have never been disputed.

For these reasons, I have concluded that those senators blocking his nomination do so as a simple matter of discrimination.

Those who oppose my father's nomination on the premise that sexual orientation affects "family values" are not familiar with the strength of our family. While I was growing up, my father never tried to influence my sexuality in any way. What he did teach me was kindness, acceptance of others, honesty, self-esteem and standing up for what you believe.

I have just returned to California from Washington with my father, three of my sisters, my brother, two brothers-in-law, my wife, two nieces, one nephew and my father's partner. We were in Washington for a meeting about our family's foundation, which my father established to encourage us to participate in philanthropy.

He has taught us through his own giving, to organizations like Swarthmore College, the Holocaust Museum, Virginia Institute of Autism, University of Chicago, American Foundation for AIDS Research, Breast Cancer Action Network and the San Francisco Symphony, that to give as a family is one more way to strengthen our ties.

My father's agenda for our family is to encourage closeness and integrity. His agenda as ambassador to Luxembourg is to represent our country. It just so happens that he is gay. The Senate deserves the opportunity to act on the American agenda -- to deliberate and vote on my father's nomination.

James C. Hormel Jr.

James C. Hormel Jr. lives and works in San Francisco.

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Bill Clinton Republican Party U.s. Senate