Late gay ambassador Hormel among 2022 Stonewall Inn honorees

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Monday May 23, 2022
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The late ambassador James C. Hormel is among this year's inductees to the National LGBTQ Wall of Honor at the Stonewall Inn in New York City. Photo: Rick Gerharter<br>
The late ambassador James C. Hormel is among this year's inductees to the National LGBTQ Wall of Honor at the Stonewall Inn in New York City. Photo: Rick Gerharter

The late gay U.S. ambassador James C. Hormel is the latest San Francisco resident and LGBTQ leader to be named to the National LGBTQ Wall of Honor at the Stonewall Inn in New York City. He will be officially added to the list along with the four other 2022 inductees during a ceremony at the historic gay bar in late June.

Hormel, a philanthropist and the first openly LGBT person to represent the United States as an ambassador, died August 13 at the age of 88. He served as the ambassador to Luxembourg from 1999 to 2001 under former President Bill Clinton.

Pioneering Indian American LGBTQ leader, attorney, and author Urvashi Vaid is also being inducted. Vaid, the first female executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, died May 14 at the age of 63.

"They were always authentic, genuine, and down to earth, and had time for everyone," said gay San Diego city commissioner Nicole Murray Ramirez. "Sometimes people achieve a status that is pretty high and they change. And these two were some of the most different obviously in their backgrounds and lifestyles, but both were genuine, authentic, and not only great leaders but nice people."

Murray Ramirez, as the Queen Mother I of the Americas for the International Imperial Courts of the USA, Canada, and Mexico, oversees the selection of the quintet of LGBTQ people posthumously honored each year. Also being inducted this year is Stephen Sondheim, the gay composer and lyricist who died November 26 at the age of 91.

Another honoree is Tyler Clementi, a gay 18-year-old Rutgers University student whose suicide in 2010 captured worldwide media attention. Distraught after his college roommate posted video of him kissing another man online, Clementi leapt to his death from the George Washington Bridge.

The fifth inductee is lesbian reporter and feminist Dolores Alexander, who died on May 13, 2008 at the age of 76. She had been hired in 1969 as the first executive director of the National Organization for Women but resigned a year later due to the homophobia she encountered.

"She was not only discriminated against but kind of hounded out. She stood her ground," said Murray Ramirez. "We have to remember those people who had to struggle and had to battle even what are now organizations or things that are more progressive."

Honor wall

The honor wall began in 2019 as a collaboration between the Imperial Court organization and the National LGBTQ Task Force. That year, 50 names were added to the wall to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, as the Bay Area Reporter noted at the time.

Since then five names of deceased LGBTQ community leaders are added to the wall each year at a ceremony ahead of the annual Pride celebrations held in Manhattan the last full weekend of June to mark the pivotal event in the modern LGBTQ rights movement. Due to the bar being closed in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the five inductees that year were added to the honor wall last June with the five 2021 inductees.

Among the 2020 honorees were two San Francisco leaders: Phyllis Lyon, a co-founder in 1955 of the first lesbian organization, Daughters of Bilitis, who died April 9, 2020 at the age of 95; and Sean Sasser, an AIDS activist and educator known for his appearances on MTV's "The Real World: San Francisco" that depicted his relationship with fellow AIDS activist Pedro Zamora. Sasser died of a non-HIV-related lung disease on August 7, 2013 at the age of 44.

Zamora died on November 11, 1994 at the age of 22. He was among the 2019 inaugural honorees of the wall, as was Lyon's wife Del Martin, who died in 2008 at the age of 87.

The honor wall was established to ensure the inductees are remembered, said Murray Ramirez.

"We should never forget them. The sad thing is many people have," he said. "They were definitely great Americans. They were, period, and people are forgetting."

The 2022 Stonewall Inn honorees will be inducted during a ceremony at the bar at noon Thursday, June 23. For more information about the honor wall, click here.

New flagpole is dedicated

Attendees of the event, as well as Pride revelers this year, will encounter outside the bar a new flagpole in Christopher Park flying the Progress Pride flag with the insignia of the National Park Service. The park is part of the federal agency's Stonewall National Monument honoring the fight for LGBTQ rights.

A rainbow flag had been raised on a different flagpole at the park on October 11, 2017 — National Coming Out Day — that had been part of the park site. The Trump administration, however, had hastily donated it to the city of New York just prior to the flag-raising ceremony, emails would later reveal.

San Francisco resident Michael Petrelis, a longtime gay activist, that year asked the Department of the Interior, which oversees the park service, about erecting the new flagpole. It is said to be the first such flagpole on federal land that will be flying a version of the rainbow flag 24/7.

"What better way to kick off the month of June?" Petrelis told Energy & Environment News, which has covered the fight over the flagpole for years.

The flag will be hoisted for the first time at 1 p.m. Wednesday, June 1, to kick off Pride Month. ACT UP veteran and journalist Ann Northrop will serve as host of the ceremony, while Petrelis as of May 23 had raised nearly all of the $2,500 he was seeking in a GoFundMe fundraiser to cover his travel expenses to attend.

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