Former US Ambassador Jim Hormel is an ardent supporter of President Obama. But as an openly gay man who has long been active in the LGBT movement for equal rights and is in a committed relationship -- his frustration at the lack of progress is informed by urgency: "I am almost 77 years old. I don't have time to wait!" he says.
I interviewed Ambassador Hormel at the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) awards Friday night in Beverly Hills. I asked him if he thinks the LGBT community should cut President Obama some slack or push him hard. Here's his response:
Well, I think we are pushing him. And at the same time, we need to realize that the atmosphere in Washington is not the atmosphere elsewhere. It is terrible. It is poisonous -- almost literally poisonous. People are saying things that are unforgivable. The level of civility is practically nil. And this is the atmosphere where he is trying to get work done.
He has commitments -- not just to this constituency -- but he can't even get a health care package through without people saying the most atrocious things -- outrageous things. The simplest pieces of legislation are being held up because there are vindictive members of Congress who want to embarrass him.
So this is what he's dealing with. And I think we've got to give him credit for being able to move forward at all in that atmosphere. I was an ardent supporter. I am a fervent admirer. And although things haven't moved as fast as one would like, I have no doubt that he is doing what he can in a very perverse atmosphere to accomplish goals which we all want.
I am as eager as anyone else to have action on the various pieces of legislation -- some of which are a generation old -- like ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act). ENDA has been in the Senate for a literal generation.
So when I exercise any restraint whatsoever -- it's out of knowledge and awareness of the atmosphere under which the president is operating. But I am eager -- and I think all the considerations we have -- whether it's ENDA, whether it's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" hate crimes legislation -- and especially that outrageous, unconstitutional act called DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) -- I want them gone. I want them gone now.
I am almost 77 years old. I don't have time to wait. And I don't see any reason why anyone in this room -- whatever their age -- should wait for things having to do with fairness and justice.