Senate confirms pro-gay U.S. ambassador to El Salvador

Mari Carmen Aponte

Mari Carmen Aponte

The U.S. Senate broke an impasse on Thursday to confirm a U.S. ambassador to El Salvador who had previously been denied the position in part of because of a pro-gay editorial she wrote in one of the country’s newspapers.

The Senate confirmed Mari Carmen Aponte, a D.C. lawyer and activist, to the role by voice vote after senators voted 62-37 to cut off debate on her nomination.

Mari Carmen Aponte

In December, cloture for nomination failed by 49-37 — short of the 60 votes needed to advance her nomination. Tea Party favorite Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) led the charge against her, saying an editorial she wrote in favor of LGBT rights was “hostile to the culture of El Salvadorans.”

Her op-ed, titled “For the Elimination of Prejudices Wherever They Exist,” was published on June 28 in La Prensa Grafica, a Spanish-language newspaper in El Salvador. The piece followed a call from the State Department to Foreign Services officers urging them to recognize June as Pride month overseas.

According to the Associated Press, Aponte wrote, ”No one should be subjected to aggression because of who he is or who he loves. Homophobia and brutal hostility are often based on lack of understanding about what it truly means to be gay or transgender. To avoid negative perceptions, we must work together with education and support for those facing those who promote hatred.”

But the op-ed was only one issue that Republicans raised about Aponte last year. The GOP also took issue with a relationship she had with an insurance salesman named Roberto Tamayo that ended in 1994. In 1993, a Cuban intelligence defector accused Tamayo of being a Cuban spy and trying to recruit supporters. However, Tamayo was later reportedly said to have been an informant for the FBI.

Aponte’s opponents accused the Obama administration of not providing enough information on her past. Democrats disputed the notion that enough information wasn’t available and that anything in Aponte’s FBI file should detract from her ability to continue to serve as ambassador.

At the time, Aponte was already serving as U.S. ambassador to El Salvador through recess appointment. But because she couldn’t get confirmed last year, her appointment expired on Jan. 3.

President Obama renominated Aponte for the position on Feb. 17. Her confirmation on Thursday means she can return to the position after being absent from the post for more than six months.

Continue reading at the Washington Blade

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