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James Hormel, a wealthy Democratic donor from San Francisco, would become the first openly gay U.S. ambassador if the Senate confirms him as envoy to Luxembourg.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, headed by conservative Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., previously recommended confirmation of Hormel as an alternate delegate to the United Nations. Asked about Hormel's chances of confirmation for the European ambassadorial job, a committee spokesman said Wednesday Helms doesn't generally comment on nominees before they get a hearing.

Hormel, 64, heir to the Hormel Meat Co. fortune, is on the board of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the educational arm of the nation's leading gay-rights group. He has donated at least $120,000 to Democratic party candidates and causes since 1995.

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