In New Book, First Openly Gay Ambassador Talks of Shattering the ‘Pink Ceiling’

Nov 11, 2011 6:58pm

From former ambassador James Hormel’s view, we have come a long way. The first openly gay ambassador has spent decades advocating for gay and lesbian rights, a fight he chronicles in his new book “Fit to Serve.”

“I think that the social issues have risen to a level where they are getting the attention they deserve,” Hormel told ABC’s Top Line.

For example, Hormel said, there have been other openly gay ambassadors since he was appointed as ambassador to Luxembourg in 1999. He also noted there are now six states where same-sex couples can be married, the “heinous” Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy is now gone, and there have been serious moves to end discrimination in jobs and housing.

Hormel credits a lot of that progress to a generational shift that is pushing Americans to reexamine tough social issues. He said the shift will “make a big difference in the near future with respect to LGBT issues.”

But the fight is far from over.

“The number one problem today as I see it is that people think that being gay is a matter of choice, and they somehow distinguish gay people as having made a choice to be tormented by their society,” said Hormel.

On Thursday, the Senate came one step closer to repealing the Defense of Marriage Act. The act was signed into law by the same man who pushed for Hormel’s ambassadorship, former President Bill Clinton. Hormel isn’t immune to the politics of DOMA, noting Clinton was in a tight election situation when he signed it into law in 1996.

“He was being hounded by the Republicans, who had just gained control of the Congress, and he was facing a situation which eventually led to his impeachment, so I think that signing DOMA was a political act of the time,” Hormel said.

Hormel makes no apologies for the law itself, calling it “the most heinous piece of civil rights legislation in a century.”

Hormel said DOMA was a matter of then and now, underscoring once more that gay and lesbian rights have come a long way since Hormel became the highest-ranked openly gay official in a federal administration.

“It was, in effect, breaking the pink ceiling.”

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