Gay advocates are praising President Obama for nominating an openly gay man to serve as ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa, however, Samoan officials might not welcome the news because homosexuality is illegal in the South Pacific island nation.
The Samoan mission at the United Nations, which also serves as Samoa’s embassy to the United States, was unaware Thursday of the nomination, which the White House announced Wednesday evening.
“We are still waiting to hear from the U.S. Embassy in Samoa,” a diplomat at the mission said.
Under normal protocol, a foreign embassy would seek approval of the host government for a prospective ambassador before an announcement of the appointment is made.
If Samoa objects to the nomination, Mr. Obama could face the same predicament that confronted President Clinton in 1994 when he considered appointing James Hormel, the gay heir to the Hormel meat-packing empire, to Fiji, where homosexuality is also illegal. He later named Mr. Hormel as ambassador to Luxembourg.
Whatever the outcome in Samoa, American gay advocates were happy Thursday with the nomination of David Huebner, a lawyer based in Shanghai, where he handles international disputes for the firm of Sheppard Mullin Richter and Hampton. He is also general counsel for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Discrimination.
“I got a highly qualified ambassador for my birthday,” said Joan Garry, a former co-chairwoman of the National Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Finance Committee for Mr. Obama’s presidential campaign.
Ms. Garry, writing Thursday in the Huffington Post, said she “did the happy dance” in her living room when she learned of the White House announcement.
The nomination comes as Mr. Obama was facing increasing criticism from his gay supporters for failing to promote their issues.
“President Obama has endured stinging criticism from LGBT supporters for his perceived lack of action on our issues since taking over the White House,” Kevin Naff wrote last week in the gay newspaper, the Washington Blade.
If Mr. Huebner is confirmed by the Senate, he would be the third openly gay ambassador to serve the United States. President George W. Bush appointed David Guest, a gay Foreign Service officer, as ambassador to Romania in 2001.
Congressional human rights leaders on Thursday praised Romania for facing its gruesome past by dedicating a memorial to the victims of the Romanian Holocaust in World War II. However, they also criticized Romania for taking 60 years to acknowledge the mass murder of Jews and Gypsies.
“After decades of denying or minimizing its past with respect to Romania’s role in the Holocaust, the unveiling of the monument builds on the significant strides made of the last few years in Romania’s recovery of its true history,” said Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, Maryland Democrat and chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, Florida Democrat and the commission co-chairman, complained that Romania only faced its past after an international panel led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel compiled evidence that the World War II government of Marshal Ion Antonescu was responsible for killing as many as 380,000 Jews and 11,000 Gypsies, also known as Roma.
Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican and the senior minority member of the commission, added, “More than 60 years after World War II, such a memorial is long overdue in Romania.”
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