Dominicans freak out over Obama’s gay ambassador pick

July 12, 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Opposition to U.S. President Barack Obama’s nominee for ambassador to the Dominican Republic reached a fever pitch this week as religious organizers stage a “Lunes Negro” or Black Monday protest against James “Wally” Brewster.

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If confirmed, Brewster will be the first openly gay ambassador to the country, a prospect that is not going over well with some segments of this conservative Christian country of 9 million people. Local reports indicate that church leaders are pressuring the government to reject Brewster’s nomination and calling on the faithful to dress in black on Monday in solidarity against him.

Praise Christian Church Pastor Sauford Medrano is quoted in Diario Libre as saying that Brewster could cause “the U.S. promotion of gender beliefs in the country.” That supposedly violates a general education law in the country that “all the Dominican education system is based on Christian principles.”

The report was flagged by FP reader and Dominican expat Will Williams, an architect in New York City. He said he witnessed the animosity toward the ambassador in a visit last weekend. “I could confirm myself that the opposition has been even worse from what have been reflected in the news,” he said. “As a Dominican, I feel ashamed this is happening in my country. … The evangelical church is convoking the general public to reject this ambassador. … [It’s] asking the public to show a black band, black banner or ribbon on cars or dress showing rejection.”

In a statement to FP, Monica Trasandes, director of Spanish Language Media at GLAAD, defended the president’s pick. “We stand with LGBT advocates in the Dominican Republic, who are calling on leaders to quit categorizing their country’s population as homophobic,” she said. “We hope that James Brewster will help educate those still adversely affected by homophobia and applaud the work of LGBT advocates in the Dominican Republic.”

When news of opposition to Brewster first began, the Dominican Embassy in Washington told FP that the country supports the president’s pick. “The Dominican Republic is a democracy with a vibrant media and a wide diversity of opinions on every conceivable topic,” the statement read. “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 U.S. Senate.”

In June, the AP spoke with Catholic and evangelical church leaders who opposed the nomination. “If he arrives, he’ll suffer and will be forced to leave,” Vicar Pablo Cedano, told the AP. He said the pick showed “a lack of respect, of consideration, that they send us that kind of person as ambassador.” Rev. Cristobal Cardozo, leader of the Dominican Evangelical Fraternity, said the appointment was offensive. “It’s an insult to good Dominican customs,” he said.

Brewster was a fundraiser for Obama and currently works at the Chicago consulting firm SB&K.

© 2013, Foreign Policy

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