The Senate has finally confirmed Mari Carmen Aponte as Ambassador to El Salvador after a stalemate that lasted more than a year and a half. Republicans filibustered the pro-LGBT interim ambassador's confirmation only six months ago. But the nomination finally moved forward Thursday in a 62-to-37 vote.
Aponte had served as ambassador in San Salvador from September 2010 to December 2011. President Obama made her a recess appointee after she was unable to win Senate confirmation. But her temporary tenure ran out at year's end, reports the New York Times.
In December, the same nominee got just 49 votes. Republicans had raised questions about whether her former boyfriend was a spy for Cuba and said an opinion piece she wrote for a Salvadoran newspaper had offended the people of El Salvador by praising President Mauricio Funes for banning discriminating against gay men and lesbians.
"The op-ed upset a large number of community and pro-family groups in El Salvador who were insulted by Ms. Aponte’s attempt to impose a pro-gay agenda in their country," Senator Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina, said during a confirmation hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at that time.
This time there was hardly a peep. Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, was the only lawmaker to speak before the vote, and he spoke on behalf of Ms. Aponte’s Puerto Rican heritage. Nine Republicans voted to confirm.
Latino activists are credited with pressuring the Republicans to move forward. The activists targeted Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, notes the AP.
Hispanic groups had pressed Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., to break ranks with conservative Republicans to ensure Aponte's confirmation. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus urged him to follow through on a promise to secure the votes for Aponte. Puerto Rico Secretary of State Kenneth McClintock, a Democrat, questioned whether Rubio would stop a qualified Puerto Rican woman from representing the United States.
DeMint––who has said that same-sex marriage is "destructive" to society and gays are "immoral"––led the opposition against Aponte. DeMint also vocally opposed Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor' confirmation––as well as that of Washington D.C. Superior Court. Judge Marisa Demeo, one of President Obama’s first openly LGBT appointees.
Aponte becomes the first Puerto Rican-American woman to serve as a U.S. ambassador. All Democrats and Independents supported the vote. The nine Republican senators voting "yes" were Rubio, Collins and Snowe of Maine, McCain of Arizona, Graham of South Carolina, Murkowski of Alaska, Lugar of Indiana, Ayotte of New Hampshire and Scott Brown of Massachusetts.