Same-sex Partners Occupy
U. S. Ambassador's Residence
When former HBO executive James Costos (b. 1963) was named the United States Ambassador to Spain and Andorra in 2013, his partner of 15 years, interior designer Michael Smith, moved in with him to occupy the ambassador’s residence in Madrid. Although they became one of the first same-sex couples to make their home in an embassy, Ambassador Costos says he and Smith were welcomed as any other ambassador would be, even though Spain is overwhelmingly Catholic (93%). In spite of religious cultural influence, same sex marriage was legal in Spain many years before it became law in the United States.
Costos was appointed by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the United States Senate on August 1, 2013. When the Obama family spent a weekend with Costos and Smith at their Palm Springs home last year, the press was mute. This is an indication of how much progress has been made regarding same sex couples. Imagine the hoopla that would have ensued if either the Bush or Clinton families had resided under the roof of a same sex couple.
In addition to the ambassador's residence in Madrid, Costos and Smith maintain a penthouse in New York City, a residence in Holmby Hills, CA, and a third abode in Rancho Mirage (Palm Springs).
Michael Smith (seated) and Ambassador Costos at the U.S. Ambassador's residence in Madrid, with Glenn Ligon's neon art sign, "Double America." (Photo: James Rajotte)
High-profile designer Smith, whose business is based in Los Angeles, has been the White House decorator since 2008 and is responsible for the 2010 refurbishment of the Oval Office and the Obama’s private quarters (2009). At that time Smith was also appointed to the Committee for the Preservation of the White House. He spends one week a month in Madrid with Costos and works the rest of the time at his office in California. Smith has tweaked the embassy interiors, especially with artwork and decorative accessories, which the couple plans to leave behind for subsequent ambassadors to enjoy.
Costos is concentrating his efforts on Spain’s economic recovery, stressing entrepreneurship as a path to tackle Spain's high unemployment rates.
Coffee with our celebrity guest:
A day at the beach: