A Republican is demanding a gay man be named an ambassador. A Democrat is opposing it.

Richard Grenell
U.S. spokesman to the UN Richard Grenell at a UN Security Council meeting. Photo: Security Council Meeting on Flickr

A conservative Republican senator from Utah is demanding the confirmation of a gay man as ambassador to Germany. It’s a whole new  world.

Sen. Orrin Hatch took to Twitter on Monday to demand the Senate confirm Richard Grenell’s appointment as Ambassador to Germany.

You might remember Richard Grenell from Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. The openly gay spokesman was hired by the campaign to handle foreign policy messages, but was forced to resign after being attacked by anti-gay right wing conservatives.

Now, apparently, Grenell has gone from “too gay to represent a Republican presidential candidate” to “not too gay to represent the United States abroad.” What gives?

The president nominated Grenell to serve as ambassador to Germany months ago, making him the administration’s first openly gay nominee. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted to support Grenell’s nomination. Twice. But it has languished without a floor vote in the Senate.

The delay caused Hatch’s tweet to his senate colleagues to get on with it already.

You might remember Orrin Hatch as the guy who once told his fellow Republicans that they should be proud of their party because “we don’t have the gays and lesbians with us.” (Hatch later explained that he meant Republicans should be proud not to have the support of a group of “very intelligent, highly educated, high-earning people,” like gays and lesbians.)

Hatch is not exactly a rainbow flag wager. Yet he’s going to bat for a gay man’s diplomatic appointment. Let that sink in for a minute.

Have we gone through the looking glass here? Well, not exactly, but clearly we aren’t in Kansas anymore.

Times have changed, that’s all.

It’s not clear just who’s responsible for the holdup of Grenell’s nomination. Republicans blame Senate Democrats. Democrats say they have some concerns about Grenell’s past statements about women, but they’re not responsible for the delay either.

What’s clear is that just a few short years after Grenell’s orientation was enough to get him bounced from a Republican presidential campaign, now it’s not enough to stop prominent Republicans like Hatch and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn from supporting his nomination.

It may not seem like much, but when measuring progress, every little bit counts. Don’t expect to see Hatch or Cornyn in a pride parade anytime soon. But, in some ways, we’re looking at a whole new world.

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