Fourteen Years of Gay Rights Progress
Today, former Senator Chuck Hagel, rumored to be a possible nominee for secretary of defense, apologized for comments he made in 1998 about James Hormel, then-President Bill Clinton's nominee for U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg. Hagel had complained at the time that Hormel is "openly aggressively gay" and therefore did not represent "our lifestyle, our values, our standards." This statement -- and how bizarre it sounds just 14 years later -- reflects how much the political landscape around gay rights has changed. Ambassador to Luxembourg is one of the least consequential positions requiring Senate confirmation. It's routinely handed out to wealthy political donors, such as Hormel, who is an heir to the Spam meatpacking fortune. President Barack Obama's first appointee to the position, Cynthia Stroum, so terrorized embassy staff that several sought transfers to Iraq or Afghanistan to avoid her. She had raised more than $500,000 for Obama's first campaign. All of which is to say, who serves as ambassador to Luxembourg is not terribly important to the national interest.