“This is very much a social transition that is happening in the Dominican Republic, a conversation that’s needed to happen,” said Brewster during an interview at the State Department that took place during the annual Chiefs of Mission Conference.
More than 30,000 people have signed the petition since a group of Dominican evangelicals posted it to the White House’s website last week.
A group of Catholic bishops in the Dominican Republic on Monday urged the country’s government to formally complain to the U.S. about Brewster’s “conduct” that includes visiting schools and attending public events with his husband, Bob Satawake.
National Security Advisor Susan Rice last week reiterated the Obama administration’s support of Brewster. A group of Dominican LGBT rights advocates have also posted their own petition to the White House website in support of the openly gay ambassador.
“What we’re seeing is traditional tactics that people use to push people back in the closet, to push allies back from wanting to come out and support the rights of those who are marginalized,” said Brewster. “For me, for Bob, we know we have the support of the president.”
Vatican silent on cardinal’s anti-gay rhetoric
Brewster has faced a series of attacks since Obama nominated him to represent the U.S. in the Dominican Republic in 2013.
A group of Dominican intellectuals and religious leaders in January urged Medina and the Dominican Ministry of Foreign Affairs to declare Brewster “persona non grata” because of a U.S.-backed education initiative they contend seeks “to turn our adolescents gay.” Gladys Feliz, who is a member of the Dominican House of Deputies, on Wednesday used an anti-gay slur in a tweet she wrote in response to the vandalism of a banner outside of a school in the Dominican capital of Santo Domingo with Brewster’s name on it.
“For the defenders of the U.S. ambassador, the Spanish language dictionary calls you faggot,” wrote Feliz in another tweet. “I hope you are satisfied!”
Para los defensores del Embajador USA, el diccionario de la lengua española los llama MARICON! espero estén complacidos!
— Gladys Feliz (@GladysFDiputada) March 16, 2016
Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez of the Archdiocese of Santo Domingo has repeatedly used anti-gay slurs to describe Brewster.
“He’s been consistent, so I wouldn’t use the word surprise,” Brewster told the Blade in response to a question about whether López’s homophobic rhetoric has surprised him. “The disappointing thing for me is that I don’t see that as something that you’re hearing from the leader of the Catholic Church in Rome.”
The Vatican has yet to publicly respond to López’s use of anti-gay slurs against Brewster.
“From the United States perspective, we do not speak to other diplomats in the tone or in the vile language that is spoken to with us,” Brewster told the Blade. “That’s a respect that we have of other governments.”
“I would hope that the Vatican — as we would not do that with their officials — would understand and condemn those types of words to any official with any government, but especially with one of their strongest allies, which is the United States, and to the president’s personal representative in the country,” he added.
Ambassador is ‘dedicated representative’ of U.S. government
Brewster and Satawake have emerged as prominent supporters of LGBT-specific causes in the Dominican Republic.
The two men earlier this month attended the official launch of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce’s affiliate in the Dominican Republic.
Brewster and Satawake took part in a Pride parade in the Dominican capital of Santo Domingo last year. The U.S. Embassy in the Dominican Republic also supports a tourism campaign with the Center for Integrated Training and Research, a Dominican HIV/AIDS service organization, that seeks to expand economic opportunities for LGBT Dominicans.“Ambassador Brewster is a dedicated representative of the U.S. government and an exemplary public servant who was confirmed unanimously by the U.S. Senate,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin told the Blade on Wednesday in a statement.
Griffin said the petition that urges the White House to remove Brewster “promotes hatred and bigotry.” He also blasted López and other Dominican religious leaders who are “are promoting fear and ignorance that not only smears a dedicated American diplomat, but contributes to a climate where people are afraid to come out.”
“It’s time Pope Francis spoke out against this campaign of hate being perpetrated by Catholic Church leaders,” Griffin told the Blade.
Rosanna Marzan, director of Diversidad Dominicana, a Dominican LGBT advocacy group, also criticized Brewster’s critics.
“The activism to which the conservatives are referring is nothing more than a smokescreen to cover up other issues and to keep people distracted,” Marzan told the Blade in an email from Santo Domingo.
Marzan and Cristian King of Trans Siempre Amigos, another Dominican advocacy group, on Wednesday said that Brewster has made the country’s LGBT rights movement more visible. Many of the openly gay ambassador’s supporters in the Dominican Republic and in the U.S. have posted pictures of themselves with him on their social media pages with the hashtag #ImWithWally.
“These attacks against the ambassador violate the right to equality, the free development of personality, the right to non-discrimination,” King told the Blade.
Brewster said the backlash that he continues to experience from López and others has prompted more Dominicans to “support the marginalized.”
“It’s a great social conversation that needed to happen and I think its happening now,” he said. “It’s rising the level of those who bully and perpetuate prejudices in areas for all marginalized groups and it’s allowing them to be seen for who they are.”
Campaign rhetoric sparks ‘a lot of concern’
Brewster is one of six openly gay U.S. ambassadors.
He said that he plans to work on trade, security and other issues with the Dominican government in the final months of the Obama administration.
Brewster spoke with the Blade roughly two months before the Dominican Republic’s general election that is scheduled to take place on May 15. Incumbent President Danilo Medina is expected to win re-election.
“We’re going to finish strong,” Brewster told the Blade. “We’re going to continue working on behalf of him and the American people. We’re going to do everything we can until the last day we’re there to continue to push forward the relationship between the Dominican Republic and the United States and the shared values that we have.”
Brewster conceded to the Blade that he hears “a lot of concern” among his fellow diplomats in the Dominican Republic about some of the U.S. presidential candidates.
“I don’t agree with a lot of the rhetoric,” he said.
Brewster did not mention a specific candidate.
“Right now the candidates are running for office, but right now President Obama is our leader,” he said.
“My objectives are to keep forwarding the vision that he has for the United States government internationally and domestically,” added Brewster. “As long as he’s in office that’s really where my focus is going to be.”