Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez of the Archdiocese of Santo Domingo referred to James “Wally” Brewster as “maricón” or “faggot” in Spanish during a press conference in the Dominican capital on June 26.
Obama on June 21 tapped Brewster, a Human Rights Campaign board member who is also an LGBT co-chair for the Democratic National Committee, to represent the U.S. in the Dominican Republic.
Daniel Foote, a spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo, defended Brewster’s nomination in a brief statement to reporters on June 29.
“Brewster arrives as an ambassador,” Foote said, as reported by the Associated Press. “He’s not coming here as an activist for the gay community.”
López, who was among those rumored to potentially succeed Pope Benedict XVI after his surprise resignation in February, has previously used homophobic slurs to describe gay men.
He described gay men as “faggots” in a 2007 interview with a Dominican newspaper.
López told the Associated Press in 2006 that gay tourists who visit Santo Domingo’s old city are “social trash” and “degenerates.” He said during a 2010 interview with the Dominican newspaper Listín Diario that a Santo Domingo park in which gay men and lesbians gather had become “a space where all types of insolences and vulgarities abound.”
Dominican LGBT rights advocates have criticized López’s comments against Brewster.
“We are not questioning the exercise of faith; the exercise of faith is a necessity and a human rights,” Leonardo Sánchez, director of the Santo Domingo-based group Amigos Siempre Amigos, told the Dominican newspaper 7 Días on June 28. “What we are questioning are the attitudes of those who use their faith to incite violence.”
The Associated Press reported that Rev. Cristóbal Cardozo of the Dominican Evangelical Fraternity and other religious leaders have also spoken out against Brewster’s nomination.
Buzzfeed reported an advisor to President Danilo Medina said the Dominican government approved Brewster’s nomination before the Obama administration announced it.