July 3, 2014 | by Michael K. Lavers
Anti-gay views rampant in Dominican Republic
Dominican Republic, gay news, Washington Blade

David, a victim of the abusive practices employed at Escuela Caribe as depicted in the documentary ‘Kidnapped for Christ.’ (Photo by Katrina Marcinowski)

Anti-LGBT religious leaders remain influential in the Dominican Republic in spite of local advocacy efforts that have grown more visible in recent years.

Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez of the Archdiocese of Santo Domingo last month told a Dominican newspaper that gay U.S. Ambassador to the U.S. James “Wally” Brewster “should take his pride elsewhere,” after he and his husband, Bob Satawake, released a video to celebrate Pride month. He described the gay U.S. ambassador as a “maricón” or “faggot” in Spanish during a June 2013 press conference after President Obama nominated him with the apparent approval of Dominican President Danilo Medina.

Rev. Luís Rosario of the Santo Domingo Youth Ministry has described Brewster as a “bad example” for Dominican society and families. Rev. Cristóbal Cardozo of the Dominican Evangelical Fraternity and other religious leaders also opposed the former Human Rights Campaign board member’s nomination.

“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,” Deivis Ventura of the Amigos Siempre Amigos Network of Volunteers told the Washington Blade during a March interview at his Santo Domingo home that more than a dozen other Dominican LGBT rights advocates also attended. “We are defending the right that we have to occupy public positions equally as gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people.”

Ventura and other Dominican LGBT rights advocates with whom the Blade has spoken in recent months have pointed out that Brewster has made their efforts more visible through increased media coverage and debate of gay-specific issues in the country. Anti-LGBT discrimination, a lack of support from the government and persistent health and educational disparities are among the myriad issues they continue to confront.

López in 2010 described Parque Duarte in Santo Domingo’s Colonial City where hundreds of LGBT Dominicans gather on weekend nights as “a space where all types of insolences and vulgarities abound.” He and some neighbors have unsuccessfully tried to ban them from the square that is across the street from a church.

Ventura told the Blade last week that Dominican psychiatrists practicing so-called “reparative therapy” is becoming more common.

José Dunker Lambert, a psychiatrist and family therapist, on June 18 published on his website a list of 10 reasons “to treat homosexuality.” These include the arguments that homosexuality is a “social deviation” and “learned conduct.”

Dunker, Dominican Sexology Society President Martha Arredondo Soriano and Amigos Siempre Amigos Executive Director Leonardo Sánchez in April debated in a Dominican newspaper the topic of whether homosexuality is a choice.

“A person who has a homosexual orientation, who feels attracted to people of the same sex, in any given moment can decide to not exercise their true orientation,” Arredondo says. “But the science is clear and comes with evidence: Sexual orientations cannot be changed.”

“Kidnapped for Christ,” a documentary co-produced by Lance Bass that debuted at this year’s Sundance Film Festival features Escuela Caribe, a Christian boarding school near the city of Jarabacoa in the country’s mountainous interior. The institution that an Indiana-based Evangelical organization opened in 1972 subjected students to physical abuse and other forms of punishment that included forced labor and “conversion therapy.”

Ventura noted to the Blade that fundamentalist Christian churches in the U.S. fund Escuela Caribe — which closed in 2012 and reopened under a new name — and similar institutions in the Dominican Republic.

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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