A row has erupted in the Dominican Republic over President Barack Obama's nomination of top campaign fundraiser James "Wally" Brewster as a nominee for US ambassador to the Caribbean island.
Religious and conservative leaders have exploded in ire at the fact that the nominee is an out gay man and have raised the specter of the United States imposing their morals - including same-sex marriage - on the Caribbean island (never mind that the Dominican Republic is one of the few countries which specifically bans same-sex marriage in their constitution).
Major US media have taken notice and reported at length. From yesterday's Miami Herald ("Gay nominee for US ambassador criticized, praised in Dominican Republic"):
Top members of the evangelical and Catholic churches, including the powerful Catholic cardinal, criticized Obama for a choice they say is out of touch with the country’s cultural reality.
Monsignor Pablo Cedano, auxiliary Catholic bishop of Santo Domingo, said the appointment of Brewster showed “a lack of sensitivity, of respect by the United States.”
Brewster’s position on gay rights “is far from our cultural reality,” he said, adding that if he comes, “he’s going to suffer,” due to the cultural differences, “and he’ll have to leave.”
Church leaders often comment on, and influence, social matters here, where 88 percent of the population identifies as Catholic. The conservative hand of the Church has been seen in the 2010 constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and in pushing through a controversial ban on abortions.
Gay rights advocates, who applauded the appointment, say they are often harassed and threatened.
“The Church doesn’t accept us,” said Francisco Ulerio at a gay rights parade Sunday in downtown Santo Domingo.
Ulerio, who said he is Catholic, dressed as a Catholic cardinal to protest the comments made about Brewster. “They are very conservative,’’ he said. “They don’t have respect for us.”From Buzzfeed ("Gay ambassador nominee sparks controversy in the Dominican Republic"):
LGBT leaders accused Catholic leaders of having a “double standard” for attacking Brewster’s appointment while protecting a priest accused of raping 12 girls.
The attacks have also been denounced by a United Nations official in the country. Valerie Julliand, who represents the United Nations Development Program, said that religious opposition “has no basis” and officials should not be “judged for their sexual preferences, but rather their abilities.”
After initially keeping mum on the controversy, an official of the Medina administration said it would be “indelicate” to reject Brewster if he is confirmed. Indeed, said Cesar Pina, a legal adviser to the Medina administration, the Dominican Republic signed off on the nomination before it was publicly announced.
The U.S. embassy ultimately felt it had to weigh in to defend Brewster’s appointment. A spokesman for the embassy, Daniel Foote, said on Friday, “Brewster arrives as an ambassador, he’s not coming here as an activist for the gay community.”In the past you probably would have only heard from religious and conservative leaders on the issue. What is remarkable is the push back the homophobic criticisms from the church and conservative leaders are getting not only from gays and lesbians but also the community in general.
While President Danilo Medina has not publicly spoken about the issue, members of his administration are defending the nomination which would not have happened in previous administrations.
One Catholic priest, Jesús Maria Tejada, is also buckling the religious powers that be stating that Brewster should be judged on his merits and not on his sexual identity.
Also, an informal online survey ran this weekend by HOY, a leading newspaper, had 60% of readers disagreeing with the criticism coming from the church.
It might be that people are getting tired of the church expressing outrage over what they consider immoral issues while turning a blind eye to immoral acts within the church. Earlier this month in a case that has captured the attention of all Dominicans officials called on a Polish priest to return to the island and face charges he sexually abused up to fourteen children.
Or perhaps they are tired of the naked vitriolic homophobia of Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez whose declining decades-old power has had a stranglehold on Dominican politics when it comes to LGBT rights.
Speaking to reporters this past weekend, as J. Lester Feder notes at Buzzfeed, the Cardinal addressed the issue by rejecting the nomination and used the word "maricones" (faggots) to refer to Brewster as he was filmed. Feder found this video from Telenoticias 11 and I have taken the liberty of adding English-language subtitles.
After rejecting Brewster's nomination because he disagrees with his "opinions and preferences", the Cardinal is asked to comment on a seemingly unrelated topic: A Haitian boycott of poultry and eggs imported from the Dominican Republic. His reaction?
"We go from maricones and lesbians to this?"
It is not the first time the Cardinal has used the word "maricones" (which translates as "faggots") to describe gays.
When discussing proposed changes to the national sexual education curriculum in 2007 Cardinal Lopez told reporters he was opposed to promoting condoms as a prevention tool because the Catholic church was "opposed to promiscuity among heterosexuals and maricones."
As I wrote then, those statements are par for the course for the Cardinal and follow other equally offensive statements he had made over the years:
On the presence of gays in Santo Domingo's historic colonial district: "They should stay in Europe or the United States, we don't need that social trash, we don't need it" and "Take all of them away... We cannot allow this place - the historical center of Santo Domingo - to be converted into the patrimony of foreign and Dominican degenerates" (Associated Press, April 7, 2006).
On the U.S. Catholic church sexual abuse scandals, which he chalked up to the country's tolerant policies and American churches allowing "effeminate" men in the priesthood: "If someone is effeminate or whatnot... those who are effeminate have to go elsewhere. I don't want them anywhere near a place of responsibility. I don't want them in the church" (Reuters, April 30, 2002).There are other more recent statements:
If there is any justice Brewster will be sworn in and the Cardinal will face the consequences of his decades-long unremitting hate against the LGBT people of the Dominican Republic and be forced to resign.On gays and lesbians using a public park to gather on weekends and the violent measures that "moral" people will have to take if authorities do not put an end to it: "The more [authorities] wait to take action, the worse the solution will be, because the time will arrive in which the people will see themselves compelled to react in a manner that nobody wants" (Listin Diario, April 6, 2010).
But don't quite count on the U.S. Senate to stand for justice and against a cardinal who calls gays "faggots."
This is a Senate that withheld support for Puerto Rican lawyer Mari Carmen Aponte as ambassador of El Salvador for writing an opinion piece in a Salvadorian newspaper saluting the nation's efforts to protect its LGBT citizens in 2011.
Then again she would be later confirmed after then budding Senate star Marco Rubio withdrew his opposition and a few other Republicans gave way for her nomination. So perhaps there is hope.
UPDATES: (July 3, 2013): Tom Smerado, a friend who lives in Canada, decided to express his concern by writing to the U.S. Embassy in the Dominican Republic. He has shared their response with me.
We can confirm that Mr. Brewster has already been accepted by the Dominican Republic as the next United States Ambassador to the country. Indeed, the standard procedure is for a Government to grant the agreement for a proposed Ambassadorship before the nominating country announces its decision.
Born in the Dominican Republic, New York State Senator Adriano Espaillat is supporting Brewster. "I think Ambassador Brewster understands the United States’ dynamics towards Latin America and the Caribbean," he told Dominican Today, "What’s most important is that Mr. Brewster is a highly capable official, I think he’ll be a good ambassador and his sexual orientation will not change his effectiveness as a diplomat."The Dominican Republic is a democracy with a vibrant media and a wide diversity of opinions on every conceivable topic. However, it is the position of the Government of the Dominican Republic that a person’s sexual preference is strictly a personal matter and it looks forward to working constructively with Mr. Brewster in his official capacity once his nomination is approved by the US Senate.
Previously Espaillat had saluted the nomination through his Twitter account.
Congrats to Wally Brewster - a dedicated #LGBT activist and now the next U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic! http://t.co/ooP8DYy3R0Here is additional coverage from CNN.
— Adriano Espaillat (@EspaillatNY) June 28, 2013
- Gay U.S. ambassador nominee to the Dominican Republic exposes cultural rift (Fox News Latino)
- Dominican cardinal greets news of gay U.S. ambassador with homosexual slur (The Daily Mail)
- How will openly gay U.S. ambassador fare in the Dominican Republic? (Hispanically Speaking)
- Dominican Republic says it's always been cool with gay ambassadors (Foreign Policy)
- NY State Senator Adriano Espaillat backs gay U.S. ambassador nominee (Dominican Today)
- Dominican cardinal who called U.S. ambassador a faggot is facing priest pedophile scandal in his own archdiose (AKSARBENT)
- Catholic cardinal calls openly gay ambassador nominee a "faggot" (The Raw Story)
- Cardinal uses slur to refer to gay ambassador nominee (The Advocate)
- Cardinal uses anti-gay slur against U.S. ambassador nominee (The Washington Blade)
- Catholic cardinal calls U.S. ambassador nominee a faggot (AMERICAblog)
- Dominican cardinal blasted for calling U.S. ambassador nominee a faggot (Truth Wins Out)
- Cardinal calls potential U.S. ambassador a 'faggot' (The Bilerico Project)
- Some Dominicans slam openly gay U.S. ambassador (Al Jazeera's The Stream)
- Diocese of Catholic cardinal who called Obama ambassador nominee 'faggot' has pedophilia scandal (The New Civil Rights Movement)
- Video (Monaga)
- Meme (The Backlot)
- Obama admin. provokes outrage in Dominican Republic with homosexual activist ambassador appointee (LifeSite News)