April 7, 2015 at 12:00 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Former Dominican president uses anti-gay slur during U.S. speech

Hipolito Mejia, gay news, Washington Blade

Former Dominican President Hipolito Mejia (Photo public domain)

Former Dominican President Hipólito Mejía has sparked outrage among the country’s LGBT rights advocates over his use of an anti-gay slur during an appearance in the U.S. last week.

Blabbeando, a blog that reports on LGBT issues in Latin America, reported Mejía on April 3 told members of his party, the Modern Revolutionary Party, who had gathered in New Jersey that he would not allow campaign strategists to force him to wear a wig and sit “like a little faggot does.” Those who attended the event laughed when the former Dominican president made the comments.

Mejía on April 2 highlighted his opposition to marriage rights for same-sex couples during a separate event at anti-gay New York state Sen. Ruben Díaz, Sr.,’s church in the Bronx.

“I call wine ‘wine’ and bread ‘bread,’” said Mejía, adding Díaz had asked him his opinion on gay and lesbian nuptials. “In a society where it is frowned upon to talk about these issues, I answered with all sincerity.”

Mejía proceeded to say that same-sex couples cannot “be fruitful and multiply.”

“There is no way you can do it that way,” said the former Dominican president as those who attended the event applauded him.

Mejía, 74, was president of the Dominican Republic from 2000-2004.

He lost his re-election campaign against Leonel Fernández who succeeded him. Members of the Modern Revolutionary Party, of which Mejía is a former president, are urging him to run against current President Danilo Medina in the country’s 2016 presidential election.

His trip to the U.S. last week was designed to garner support for a likely 2016 presidential campaign.

“The Dominican Republic is a country that does not respect the rights of minorities, among them the GLBT community,” Cristian King of Trans Siempre Amigas, a transgender advocacy group, told the Washington Blade on Monday. “The declarations of the man who is aspiring to become president are proof of that.”

Deivis Ventura of the Amigos Siempre Amigos Network of Volunteers told the Washington Blade on Tuesday that Mejía has previously spoken about LGBT people in a “contemptuous way.”

“It is his right to be against GLBTI people, but it is unacceptable to use mocking words to talk about the GLBT community,” said Ventura in response to the former president’s latest comments.

The hashtag #tienequedisculparse or “He must apologize” has begun to circulate among Dominican social media users. These include Amigos Siempre Amigos Executive Director Leonardo Sánchez.

“We call upon the MRP (Modern Revolutionary Party) and Hipólito to publicly apologize for these rather misguided comments,” Ventura told the Blade.

New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito on Monday also urged Mejia to apologize.

“‪I am appalled that a former Dominican Republic president and a potential future presidential candidate has used a derogatory term that is offensive, inappropriate and hurtful toward LGBT people,” said Mark-Viverito in a statement. “President Mejía needs to apologize to the LGBT community in his country and here in New York, where he made this unacceptable statement.”

Neither Mejía, nor the Modern Revolutionary Party returned the Blade’s requests for comment.

The Dominican Constitution specifically defines marriage between a man and a woman, but the country’s LGBT rights movement has become more visible since gay U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic James “Wally” Brewster assumed his post in late 2013.

Brewster and his husband, Bob Satawake, in February 2014 met with a group of Dominican LGBT rights advocates at the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo, the country’s capital and largest city. The gay couple is also working with government officials and travel industry representatives on a campaign to promote LGBT tourism and gay rights in the country in spite of continued controversy from Dominican religious officials and others.

Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez of the Archdiocese of Santo Domingo during a 2013 press conference referred to Brewster as a “faggot” after President Obama nominated him to become the next U.S. ambassador to the Dominican Republic.

Brewster last month became emotional during a panel at the Newseum in D.C. on which he and the five other gay U.S. ambassadors sat as he discussed the continued opposition he faces from López and other prominent Dominican religious leaders.

“Bob and I will celebrate 27 years together this year,” said Brewster as Satawake sat by his side. “From that perspective we both have a very strong Christian belief and so nobody is going to ever tell me that God doesn’t love me.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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