James Hormel: DOMA Is 'Heinous' for Civil Rights

First openly gay ambassador says generational shift good for LGBT rights.
3:00 | 11/11/11

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Transcript for James Hormel: DOMA Is 'Heinous' for Civil Rights
-- yes it right next to -- I do it's actually a fascinating. Honored to be here -- ambassador former ambassador James Hormel -- ambassador to Luxembourg in the Clinton administration. Investor hormel. Has I think the honor of being the first openly gay. Ambassador US ambassador it in I'm wondering sir. You you have that moniker and you always introduced. With that label what do you think about that. Well it certainly -- a statement of the moment. Because at that moment I was the -- for an two official in the federal administration. And it was in effect breaking the -- feeling. Smoke and was important. You have a new book coming out next week called fit to serve which outlines your history. Your life and also your role in government in the ninety's -- in the fight really need to come US ambassador to Luxembourg. I guess my question to you is what's changed from 1999 where it was really a struggle for you to get that job between 1999 now. Well first of all there have been other openly ambassadors suits me. Secondly there are now six states. Where -- same sex couples can be married. The Don't Ask Don't Tell all policy and this is it was -- gone. We're talking seriously about ending discrimination. In jobs and housing. And I think that that -- -- on the social issues have risen to a level where they are getting the attention they deserve Rick. Mr. ambassador I want to ask you obviously Bill Clinton was the president who went out on the -- to have -- to nominate you against a lot of folks are telling him. Not to go there now we of course that he was a president who signed the defense of marriage act and to -- We're talking about repealing the defense of marriage act President Obama has come out against it -- says he would sign the repeal. What do you make of these two democratic presidents and their stances on gay rights is -- more a function of the toddlers or something different. In terms of how they approached. It's well and it's certainly -- the function of the time I I do believe that President Clinton has since expressed his support for the repeal of goma. At the time that he signed it. 1996. He was in a very -- election situation. He was being hounded by the Republicans. Who have just gained control of the congress. News. Facing us situation which eventually led to his impeachment so. I think that that -- was finding dumb was -- was a political act of the time. I don't want to be apologetic for and I think it was perhaps the most heinous piece of civil rights legislation. In a century horrible horrible it. Nonetheless. It was a matter of I was -- is now. What do you see as the remaining obstacles. For gay Americans in public life and in everyday life. Then that the number one problem. Today as -- -- it is that people think that being gay is a matter of choice. And -- somehow of distinguished gay people as having made a choice. To be tormented by their society this is not the case I assure you. I'm left handed I didn't choose to be left. It's -- -- people tried to make the right hand that didn't work. The same is true with with being. It into the sexual orientation that is an eight. One does not make that choice when chooses to act. You know being right and that there are being left hander being gay or whatever. But in -- the choice of being. Is not there it's the -- -- -- so people need to understand that. Rick what was it like what was it like for you serving in his high ranking positions he said the highest ranking openly gay official. During that time was it difficult for you to sit kind of get beyond that line of your resonate people introduce -- that way they refer to you that way and you think -- be a lot different today because -- -- others have been there. Well at that time actually the people Luxembourg were very supportive and very receptive and went out of their way to welcoming welcoming there. And I think that was partly because they were aware of the horrible. Process that I had been through over two years of trying to be confirmed in the senate refusing to vote on my nomination. Two -- -- the actual. Time that I spent as ambassador. Was very normal for me was. In last question -- You know your you have this -- -- him very much about your life looking back now -- what -- a long way to go but for the most surprising thing you. The most surprising thing is very. Is is the way that the generational shift I think this has caused us to reexamine. All of the social issues that face us in this country. And I do believe that it's going to make big difference in the near future with respect to -- issues as well as everything else. I ambassador James Hormel coming -- the new book that the sir thanks so much for -- you're welcome thank you for --

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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