Tests Lott on Gay Ambassador
Derrick Z. Jackson, Boston Globe columnist
Boston Globe, Friday, January 15, 1999, p. A19
© Copyright 1999 The Globe Company
time of the brutal murder of gay student Matthew Shepard, President
Clinton urged Americans to root out bigotry. It was obvious
that Clinton could start right there in Washington, confronting
powerful, antigay members of Congress.
that Clinton has made a start in that direction. This week
he did something he rarely has done in his presidency: stand
up for a principle. With little fanfare, he resubmitted
the name of James Hormel to be ambassador to Luxembourg.
the 66-year-old philanthropist and Hormel meat heir, would be
the nation's first openly gay ambassador. White House spokesman
Barry Toev said: "We are hopeful that in the new Congress
fairness will prevail and he will have a chance to have his nomination
voted up or down. He is very well qualified."
first try at nominating Hormel, the White House said it had the
support of 60 of the 100 senators. But Senate Majority Leader
Trent Lott last year refused to let the nomination come to the
floor. Lott, influenced by loud objections by the far right
wing, reportedly refused any meetings with Hormel, who tried to
soften the objections against him by saying he would not bring
his partner to Luxembourg.
a Republican from Mississippi, is a well-known homophobe, urging
gay people to "control" their "problem," comparing
homosexuality to kleptomania, alcoholism, and sex addiction.
He opposes federal antidiscrimination laws for gay and lesbian
workers, saying such laws are "part of a larger and more
audacious effort to make the public accept behavior that most
Americans consider dangerous, unhealthy, or just plain wrong."
to be seen what magic Clinton will work on Lott. Perhaps
Clinton sees enough momentum from the Democrats' success in the
midterm elections to win on such issues as Hormel. What
is for sure is that the primitive Lott is in even more need than
ever to cut his losses in the image department.
week The New York Times had a story about Lott's ties to the Council
of Conservative Citizens, a 15,000-member group that grew out
of the white supremacist citizens councils of the mid-century.
Two months ago the council held its national convention in Jackson,
Miss., with Governor Kirk Fordice among the 300 people who sang
"Dixie" amid Confederate flags, objects which are like
swastikas for African-Americans.
week Lott issued a statement condemning the group. Even
though 34 members of the Mississippi Legislature are members of
the group, even though the group runs Lott's newspaper column,
and even though the group has endorsed Lott in elections, Lott
said he has "no firsthand knowledge of the group's views."
But two months ago, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reported that several
people at the convention said that Lott was a member. In
1997, a smiling Lott posed for a photograph with the council's
state coordinator and its national president and executive officer.
state coordinator, William Lord, said that Lott has appeared at
two rallies to raise funds for an all-white private school that
was created in Carroll County to let white children escape desegregation.
Lord said Lott gave a keynote speech to a national board meeting
of the council in 1992, reportedly saying, "The people in
this room stand for the right principles and the right philosophy.
Let's take it in the right direction and our children will be
"right direction" - surprise - is segregation.
A council columnist wrote last fall: "Western civilization,
with all its might and glory, would never have achieved its greatness
without the directing hand of God and the creative genius of the
white race. Any effort to destroy the race by a mixture
of black blood is an effort to destroy Western civilization itself."
odds of this group having positive views about gay and lesbian
people is somewhere between none and nonexistent. Perhaps
Lott thought that if he could keep all that overt racism and homophobia
tucked away with his straight white buddies in Missisippi, no
one would pay him any attention.
the responsiblity of holding a major Senate post can nudge bigots
into the 20th century. Hormel's nomination made it out of
the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a committee chaired by
none other than Jesse Helms, whose views on homosexuals are as
nasty as Lott's.
has said The New York Times and The Washington Post are "infested"
with homosexuals. He has called homosexuality "sickening."
But Helms has 17 other members on his committee, few of whom desire
to share Helms's or Lott's vituperative stand on homosexuality.
The nomination was approved by the committee. It will probably
be approved again. Then it will be up to Lott.
facing a rising scrutiny of his own behavior, Lott might reconsider.
He could start with the words of a Republican colleague, Jim Jeffords
of Vermont. Jeffords, a supporter of gay rights, said, "People
who work hard and perform well should not be kept from leading
productive and responsible lives because of an irrational, non-work-related