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Clinton puts gay activist in envoy post

WASHINGTON -- President Clinton on Friday named San Francisco philanthropist and gay activist James C. Hormel as ambassador to Luxembourg, sidestepping Senate Republican leaders who previously had blocked the nomination.

Clinton used special appointment powers available when Congress is in recess to bypass the Senate confirmation process and tap Hormel, 66, as the first openly gay U.S. ambassador. But in doing so, the president risked a confrontation with conservatives who have labeled Hormel, first nominated in 1997, as a gay extremist unfit for diplomatic duty."This came down to a couple of senators who thought that he shouldn't be ambassador to Luxembourg because he's gay," White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said Friday. "And the president thinks that's wrong and discriminatory, and that's why he moved ahead and did the recess appointment."

Hormel, an heir to the Hormel food fortune, can serve in the diplomatic post through the end of 2000. Clinton leaves office on Jan. 20, 2001.

So furious were some senators of Clinton's maneuver that they vowed retribution.