Friday, April 24, 2015

Former Dominican Republic president's anti-gay comments are disparaging and offensive: U.S. Ambassador

In a letter dated April 10th, James "Wally" Brewster, U.S. Ambassador to the United States, calls former Dominican President Hípolito Mejía's anti-gay comments "disparaging" and "offensive" [Photo credit: Diario Libre]

Earlier this month I did a series of blog posts on Dominican Republic ex-president Hipólito Mejía and comments he made in New York and New Jersey opposing marriage equality and using the word "mariconcito" to refer to gays as he brought a new presidential campaign bid to the East Coast of the United States [the English translation for "mariconcito" is "little faggot"].

One of the things that bothered me so much about the comments and woke me up from my blogging slumber was that he seemed to feel it was perfectly good to make those comments while visiting the United States and get away with it. Thankfully, New York City council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito caught wind of my blog post and released a stinging rebuke which was then picked up by a number of media outlets.

By the time Mejía returned to the Dominican Republic three days later he was defending his usage of "little faggot" as a commonly used colloquial term and extending apologies to those who might have "misinterpreted" his intentions.

Apparently my blog posts also caught someone else's eye: Diario Libre reports today that the openly gay U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic sent what seems to be private correspondence on official letterhead directly confronting Mejía on his statements.

"Your remarks in New York and New Jersey regarding homosexuality and gay marriage recently came to my attention," Ambassador James 'Wally' Brewster states in a missive dated April 10th, "Using words like 'mariconcito' are disparaging and dismissive of a community to which I belong. I am specially shocked and disheartened by your recent insensitive dismissal of those who have different sexual orientation than you because we have spent time together in each others' homes."

The Ambassador goes on to explain how words like "mariconcito" can cause harm even if that might not be the intent and adds this: "It is particularly offensive that you chose to make your remarks in the United States. President Obama has worked tirelessly to fight discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people and communities. Same-sex marriage is legal inmost of the United States, including New York and New Jersey, and fighting anti-LGBT discrimination is integral to our diplomatic advocacy for the protection of human rights around the world."

It's unclear how Diario Libre got their hands on the letter or why the chose to publish it today - fifteen days after the letter is dated - but it comes two days before the Modern Revolutionist Party (PRM) decides whether Mejía will be chosen as their presidential candidate.

In the letter, Brewster also addresses Mejía's opposition to marriage equality on the basis of procreation calling them discriminatory: "In particular, your arguments surrounding marriage, as strictly for reasons of procreation, not only discriminates against the LGBT community but also eliminates a large number of people who either cannot have children or choose not to procreate."

The Dominican Republic has a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage but, when asked about the Ambassador's letter this morning, it's the only topic Mejía addressed.

"On Friday, ex-president Hipólito Mejía said that his religious upbringing and Catholic beliefs prevented him from supporting legalizing marriages between people of the same gender," El Nacional reported, "Nevertheless he said he respected people who had the valor and responsibility of expressing their sexual preference for people of their same gender."

He might be highlighting his position on marriage equality time and time again because it resonates among the people he wants to draw votes from and the religious groups in the island who have always warned that the United States sent Brewster to the Dominican Republic to force same-sex marriage on the population.

According to Diario Libre, the Ambassador's letter closes with this: "As an ex-president of the Dominican Republic and public figure, your comments reflect a negative view of your nation's dignity. There are many Dominicans here and in the exterior who fight for equality for all of God's creations, a fight I hope you value and lead."

Brewster added that his husband, Bob Satawake, was available to sit down with Mejía to have a dialogue.

Diario Libre only posted an image of the first page of the Ambassador's letter.  Here is the excerpted text...
The Honorable Hipólito Mejía
Calle Juan Tomás Diaz #8
La Julia
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Dear President Mejía,

Your remarks in New York and New Jersey regarding homosexuality and gay marriage recently came to my attention. Using words like "mariconcito" are disparaging and dismissive of a community to which I belong. I am specially shocked and disheartened by your recent insensitive dismissal of those who have different sexual orientation than you because we have spent time together in each others' homes.

Young people struggling with their identity listen to public figures and when you say "little faggot" it wrongly reinforces self-doubt and that they are seen as something less by the community.  This isolates them from their family and can have terrible consequences, including suicide. Further, the use of pejorative terminology perpetuates bullying, discrimination against minorities, and encourages abuse throughout society. Even if you did not intend the words to be insulting they still had that effect.

It is particularly offensive that you chose to make your remarks in the United States. President Obama has worked tirelessly to fight discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people and communities. Same-sex marriage is legal inmost of the United States, including New York and New Jersey, and fighting anti-LGBT discrimination is integral to our diplomatic advocacy for the protection of human rights around the world.

In particular, your arguments surrounding marriage, as strictly for reasons of procreation, not only discriminates against the LGBT community but also eliminates a large number of people who either cannot have children or choose not to procreate.
Previously:

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