Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Dominican Republic: Diplomats boycott event after husband of gay U.S. Ambassador is asked not to attend

Bob Satawake and his husband James "Wally" Brewster as photographed by Dominican magazine Ritmo Social.
Just as it seemed a diplomatic row might have been averted last week when the Dominican Republic expressed full support for out U.S. ambassador James "Wally" Brewster and denounced its own ambassador to the Vatican for publicly criticizing a meeting Brewster held with LGBT advocates, a brand new diplomatic controversy has emerged over Brewster's marriage to Bob Satawake.

As last week's controversy was playing out, reports have emerged that an earlier kerfuffle erupted over a cancelled January 22nd diplomatic event in honor of Dominican Republic president Danilo Medina.

Organized by the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, the gathering was meant to be a private opportunity for diplomats and their spouses to honor the President but, as Acento reported yesterday, the Dean himself raised objections about extending an invitation to Ambassador Brewster's husband and made a personal call to ask the Ambassador for his understanding and consideration.

From a private letter sent to all diplomats after questions were raised about the decision as translated from Spanish:
1. Reasons why the partner of the U.S. Ambassador was not invited to the Diplomatic Cocktail in honor of the President of the Dominican Republic: The partner of the U.S. Ambassador is not accredited as a "wife" but, instead, as a "dependent" of the Ambassador. In the Constitution of the Dominican Republic, same sex marriages are not recognized. Thus the Dominican authorities cannot officially recognize him as his "wife."
2. This explains why he was not invited to accompany the Ambassador.
3. It would be incorrect and in some ways offensive to the entire Diplomatic Body to go against the Constitution and, worse yet, in front of the President of the Republic and in the presence of representatives from all the Diplomatic Missions accredited by the Dominican Republic.
4. The Dean of the Diplomatic Corps has spoken to the U.S. Ambassador regarding this impasse and has asked for his understanding regarding this question, particularly about its delicate nature as he well knows.  We expect the Ambassador to accept this calmly and with due consideration. The use of prudence would insure a proper way to handle this issue. 
5. This does not imply any prejudice in the understanding, respect and tolerance the Colleagues from the Diplomatic Corps have towards the U.S. Ambassador, Mr. James W. Brewster.
6. An authority from the Foreign Affairs Ministry called on Saturday, January 18th, to express that the "Foreign Affairs Ministry" has no objection regarding to the attendance of the partner of the U.S. Ambassador. Naturally, the responsibility then falls on the Diplomatic Body.
7. Later, speaking to an authority from the Foreign Affairs Ministry, it was acknowledged that the largest obstacle still remained: The fundamental question raised by the Constitution. The Dean reaffirmed that it would be completely wrong for the Heads of the Missions to go against the Constitution in front of the President. The ministerial authority immediately recognized the severity of the circumstance and how local media might make an issue out of it.
Archbishop Okolo with Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina.
The letter was signed by the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps which happens to be the new envoy from the Vatican to the Dominican Republic Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo originally from the African republic of Chad.

In October, Bishop Okolo replaced Polish Archbishop Josef Wesolowski after he escaped the Dominican Republic fleeing sexual abuse allegations.

The Dominican Foreign Affairs Ministry was not the only one who expressed having no issue with showing Ambassador Brewster the respect of treating his husband as his spouse. As Acento reports, "several diplomats refused to attend and the event had to be suspended."

The Foreign Affairs Ministry was also the government entity that stepped up last week when the Dominican ambassador to the Vatican criticized Ambassador Brewster and expressed full support for the U.S. Ambassador.

U.K. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic Steven M. Fisher.
Update (Feb. 20th, 2014): When Acento broke the news about the cancellation of the diplomatic meeting on Tuesday several conservative religious leaders immediately tried to spin the story by applauding diplomats for allegedly taking a "principled" stand against same-sex marriage and staying away from the event.

Unfortunately for them whoever is leaking internal diplomatic letters to Acento responded by disclosing a letter Steven M. Fisher wrote to Archbishop Okole in response to the reasons given for not inviting Mr. Satawake to the event:
His Excellency, I am writing to you regarding the e-mail you sent on January 20th of 2014 regarding the "reasons why the partner of the U.S. Ambassador was not invited to the cocktail organized by the diplomatic corps in honor of the president to the Dominican Republic." 
I regret the very difficult situation in which this decision has placed me when it comes to my participation in the cocktail reception. I believe this decision unjustly discriminates against a member of the Diplomatic Corps in a way that is unjustifiable. Additionally, it is my understanding that these issues should have been discussed by the Diplomatic Corps with enough time for each ambassador to give their point of view.
I reiterate the suggestion I made via e-mail on January 18th to modify the invitation so it equally includes everyone.
In the case the decision remains the same by not treating everyone equally or shows disrespect for someone's civil status, I am afraid I unfortunately won't be able to participate in the cocktail.
In other words, Vatican envoy Jude Thaddeus Okolo was not only advised that the Dominican Foreign Affairs Ministry in representation of the government had no issue with inviting Mr. Satawake to the event but other diplomats clearly warned him they would stay away if he insisted in discriminating against him.

Don't blame the gays for this diplomatic fiasco. Blame the new Vatican envoy to the Dominican Republic and conservatives from the Dominican Republic who insist on treating the U.S. ambassador and his husband with such disrespect.


No comments: