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Hatch ruffled over gay revelry at swearing-in of ambassador

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Orrin Hatch is upset over reports of public kissing by homosexual men and the applauding of gay lifestyles that occurred Tuesday as James Hormel was sworn in as the first openly homosexual U.S. ambassador.

"It's very troublesome to me, just let me say that," Hatch told the Deseret News.Hatch, R-Utah, had earlier taken a difficult stance to support Hormel as ambassador to Luxembourg. Hatch was also one of only two Republicans who openly joined Democrats to allow the Senate to vote on whether to confirm Hormel.

But a confirmation vote on Hormel's appointment turned out to be unnecessary.

President Clinton broke the impasse over his troubled nomination by making Hormel a "recess appointment" -- a method that circumvents the normal Senate confirmation process.

Hatch had said he had pushed for Hormel's confirmation only after he and the administration promised that his appointment would not be used as a platform to promote homosexuality.

But as Hormel was sworn in, his male "partner" held the family Bible upon which Hormel put his hand. Press reports also said that before the meeting, several homosexual men greeted each other with kisses on the lips.

The swearing-in occurred on the next-to-the-last day of National Gay and Lesbian Pride Month declared by Clinton, and just days after the administration placed the Stonewall Inn (a homosexual bar where riots occurred in 1969) on the National Register of Historic Places.

The State Department generally shies away from partisanship, but the whiff of politics was in the air as Secretary of State Madeleine Albright joined Hormel, a longtime Democratic donor and activist, for the festivities and spoke on his behalf.

"This is one of those glorious days when the nice guy finishes first," Albright told the gathering. "Neither race, nor creed, nor gender nor sexual orientation should be relevant to the selection of ambassadors for the United States."

"I wasn't there, but those reports concern me," Hatch said.

"I don't want to appear prejudiced or intolerant, but there has to be some sensitivity because millions of people are offended by public displays of homosexuality," he said.

Hatch added that he felt Hormel was well qualified to be an ambassador "because of his intellectual capacity and background, and otherwise successful life."

Hatch also earlier complained when Clinton chose to make Hormel a "recess" appointment while the Senate was adjourned for 10 days for Memorial Day. The law allowing Clinton to do so was designed to fill important spots during long congressional races.

Hatch complained at the time he feels such appointments may be unconstitutional, and that he was willing to help block some other appointments in protest of the move.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.