Monday, March 24, 2014

US Ambassador James Brewster and husband meet with Dominican president and wife

L-R: US Ambassador James Brewster, Dominican president Danilo Medina, his wife Cándida and Brewster's husband Bob Satawake (via Twitter)
Earlier today the new US Ambassador to the Dominican Republic James "Wally" Brewster and his husband Bob Satawake were among several diplomats and their spouses who met with Dominican president Danilo Medina and his wife Cándida at a ceremonial diplomatic cocktail that had been previously postponed.

The event sparked a diplomatic row earlier this year when Vatican envoy to the Dominican Republic Jude Thaddeus Okolo - in charge of the event - sent a private letter to all diplomats announcing that ambassador Brewster's husband would not be invited claiming that to do so would violate the Dominican constitution which bans same-sex marriages. Diplomats reacted in anger and refused to attend the event unless Mr. Satawake was extended an invitation.

Vatican envoy Jude Thaddeus Okolo at today's diplomatic event.
The Vatican envoy must have gotten the message because the event finally took place earlier today with the attendance of Mr. Satawake.

Dominican Vice President forced to withdraw homophobic 'Family Code' draft from consideration: In the meantime the big news in the Dominican Republic last week was the swift introduction and removal of proposed changes to the island's 'Family Code' which would have championed 'traditional Catholic family models' into the Dominican legislature.

Homophobic Dominican cardinal Lopez Rodriguez and the Dominican Vice President
Dominican Vice President Margarita Cedeño led the draft language committee and requested that the proposal be withdrawn almost as quick as it had been announced arguing that she now understood that it should have been first presented to the public for debate before being presented to the Dominican legislature for approval.

The bill drew withering criticism from left and right with newspaper 7 Dias calling it "a Trojan horse launched by the most extreme wing of conservative Dominican ideology.

The paper said the proposed language championed heterosexual marriages above all mentioning single parent households only twice and only when talking about welfare recipients.

Proposed changes to the family code would also have narrowed down and eliminated reasons why a couple should be granted a divorce except for one single expansion:  In the case a partner demonstrates "homosexual or lesbian conduct."

The proposed language also drew criticism from left an right for lowering the age at which someone was allowed to marry from 18 years of age to 16 in the case of boys and 14 in the case of girls.

No word from Bishop Okolo on whether he deems 14 year old girls ready for marriage.

The Washington Blade visits LGBT advocates in the Dominican Republic: Finally. in light of these developments my friend Michael K. Lavers traveled to the Dominican Republic a couple of weeks ago and gauged the impact of the arrival of the openly gay US ambassador to the Dominican Republic for The Washington Blade.

Many of those advocates were the only ones who spoke up for Ambassador Brewster before he took office and Brewster thanked them for it at a meeting that took place in February which also drew homophobic responses from the religious right in the island.

“We are defending a person who is homosexual, that is gay and has come to occupy his country’s public position in the Dominican Republic,” said Delvis Ventura of the Dominican LGBT-rights and HIV prevention organization Amigos Siempre Amigos, “We are defending the right that we have to occupy public positions equally as gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people. This is why we are defending Wally.”

Brewster had elicited some criticism from the Dominican religious right when he met with a number of LGBT-advocates in February as well.


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