WH Petition: Latest Attack Against Wally Brewster, the US Ambassador to the Dominican Republic

Posted: 1:58 pm EDT
Updated: 5:16 pm EDT
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An anonymous petition currently posted at the White House We The People portal is asking the Obama Administration “to remove the U.S. ambassador in the Dominican Republic, James W. Brewster for primarily promoting in his official duties an LGBT agenda inconsistent with the Christian cultural values and tradition of the Dominican Republic.” The petition has  above 25,000 signatures as of last night and needs over 74,000 by April 7, 2016 to reach the petition threshold which would then require an official response from the White House.

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And here is a counter petition supporting the ambassador.

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Maybe the White House can officially respond with this video:

The removal petition is just the latest in a series of attacks that Ambassador Brewster has faced since he was appointed U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic in 2013.  After his nomination was announced, the AP reported that religious groups in the country said they are outraged by the nomination of a gay U.S. ambassador to the conservative Caribbean country.  DR Bishop Pablo Cedano was quoted in the media saying that if Brewster becomes the U.S. ambassador, “he is going to suffer and will have to leave.

After Ambassador Brewster’s arrival in country, a diplomatic event in honor of Dominican Republic president Danilo Medina was cancelled.  Ambassador Brewster’s husband was reportedly not invited to that event because he was not considered a “wife.” Consequently, several diplomats reportedly refused to attend and the event had to be “suspended.” (See Meanwhile in Santo Domingo: Ambassador Brewster’s Husband Not Invited ‘Cuz He’s Not a “Wife”).

This week, the Washington Blade reports:  Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez of the Archdiocese of Santo Domingo has repeatedly used anti-gay slurs to describe Brewster. A group of Dominican intellectuals and religious leaders in January urged President Danilo Medina and the Dominican Ministry of Foreign Affairs to declare the out U.S. ambassador as “persona non grata” because of a U.S.-backed initiative they contend seeks “to turn our adolescents gay.”

Yesterday, Senator  Dick Durbin (D-IL) tweeted his support saying Ambassador Brewster is “doing exceptional work under difficult circumstances.”  U.S. Ambassador to Chile Mike Hammer also tweeted his support:

Previously in January:

Last December:

Last year, Senator Durbin also wrote and appealed to the Pope about the hostile public remarks against Ambassador Brewster made by Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez of the Archdiocese of Santo Domingo:

Ambassador Brewster is from my state of Illinois and he is a personal friend.  I supported President Obama’s selection of Ambassador Brewster and he was sworn into his position in my Senate office.  Ambassador Brewster is gay and was married under the laws of the United States to his partner, Bob Satawake.

Even before Ambassador Brewster’s arrival in Santo Domingo in 2013, Cardinal Rodriguez launched a personal attack against him with public statements quoted in the popular press.  The Cardinal used the hateful slur “faggot,” which he continues to use to this day.  In a recent interview Cardinal Rodriguez again described the Ambassador as a “faggot” and falsely claimed the Ambassador was setting out to promote “faggotry” in the Dominican Republic.  The Cardinal described the Ambassador as a “wife” who “should stick to housework.”
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The Church’s teachings on gay marriage are well known but the Church also teaches us to show tolerance for those with different sexual orientations.  The intolerant public statements of Cardinal Rodriguez are inconsistent with that clearly stated value.

Since your selection as Pope, you have shared a message of compassion, tolerance, and love.  I remember distinctly when you spoke to us at the joint session of Congress in September and reminded us of our responsibility to “defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good.”

This can’t be easy for Ambassador Brewster, his husband or the mission.

These persistent attacks are hard to watch but imagine what it must be like for LGBT members in DR and in many parts of the world.

A Dominican LGBT rights advocate told the Blade, “This is only a reflection of the homophobia that continues to exist in this country,” Ramírez told the Blade. “If this is what the ambassador of the United States is facing, you can only imagine what common GLBT people who don’t have a political agenda are up against.” 

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Meanwhile in Santo Domingo: Ambassador Brewster’s Husband Not Invited ‘Cuz He’s Not a “Wife”

— Domani Spero

Ambassador James (Wally) Brewster was officially sworn in as Ambassador to the Dominican Republic by Vice President Biden on November 22, 2013. He is now at post, accompanied by his partner of 25 years, Bob Satawake.  Prior to departing for the Dominican Republic, the couple celebrated their 25th anniversary together and got married in  Washington, D.C. (see Officially In: James “Wally” Brewster, Jr. to the Dominican Republic, an Island of Grace and Tolerance).

Photo via US Embassy DR/Facebook

Photo via US Embassy DR/Facebook

Blabbeando, the blog of LGBT-rights advocate Andrés Duque has covered the controversy over his appointment as ambassador to the Dominican Republic from the start.  Apparently,a month after assuming charge of the US Embassy in Santo Domingo, Ambassador Brewster did a reception at the embassy for the Dominican LGBT community with his husband in attendance.  According to Blabbeando, even before the Ambassador’s meeting with LGBT leaders, “Reverend Luis Rosario staged a press conference to say that the arrival of the new ambassador and his husband sent an “extremely negative message” to the Dominican people.”

“It’s a very sad state of affairs we are living at this moment,” Rev. Rosario added, “and it makes our nation seem like a great hospital for the sexually ill.”

Is this the same guy who called unnamed “sexual stimulant drugs” a time bomb?

This week, Blabbeando reports on his blog an earlier kerfuffle over a cancelled January 22nd diplomatic event in honor of Dominican Republic president Danilo Medina. Ambassador Brewster’s husband was reportedly not invited to that event because he was not considered a “wife.” Consequently, several diplomats reportedly refused to attend and the event had to be “suspended.”

And here is the most interesting part via Blabbeando:

Organized by the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, the gathering was meant to be a private opportunity for diplomats and their spouses to honor the President but, as Acento reported yesterday, the Dean himself raised objections about extending an invitation to Ambassador Brewster’s husband and made a personal call to ask the Ambassador for his understanding and consideration.

From a private letter sent to all diplomats after questions were raised about the decision as translated from Spanish:

1. Reasons why the partner of the U.S. Ambassador was not invited to the Diplomatic Cocktail in honor of the President of the Dominican Republic: The partner of the U.S. Ambassador is not accredited as a “wife” but, instead, as a “dependent” of the Ambassador. In the Constitution of the Dominican Republic, same sex marriages are not recognized. Thus the Dominican authorities cannot officially recognize him as his “wife.”

2. This explains why he was not invited to accompany the Ambassador.

3. It would be incorrect and in some ways offensive to the entire Diplomatic Body to go against the Constitution and, worse yet, in front of the President of the Republic and in the presence of representatives from all the Diplomatic Missions accredited by the Dominican Republic.

4. The Dean of the Diplomatic Corps has spoken to the U.S. Ambassador regarding this impasse and has asked for his understanding regarding this question, particularly about its delicate nature as he well knows.  We expect the Ambassador to accept this calmly and with due consideration. The use of prudence would insure a proper way to handle this issue.

5. This does not imply any prejudice in the understanding, respect and tolerance the Colleagues from the Diplomatic Corps have towards the U.S. Ambassador, Mr. James W. Brewster.

6. An authority from the Foreign Affairs Ministry called on Saturday, January 18th, to express that the “Foreign Affairs Ministry” has no objection regarding to the attendance of the partner of the U.S. Ambassador. Naturally, the responsibility then falls on the Diplomatic Body.

7. Later, speaking to an authority from the Foreign Affairs Ministry, it was acknowledged that the largest obstacle still remained: The fundamental question raised by the Constitution. The Dean reaffirmed that it would be completely wrong for the Heads of the Missions to go against the Constitution in front of the President. The ministerial authority immediately recognized the severity of the circumstance and how local media might make an issue out of it.

Since when have spouses been accredited by foreign governments?  Spouses, straight or gays are not employees of the U.S. government and do not receive official accreditation.  This is a damn cocktail for god’s sake. We imagine no girlfriends, live-in partners, or people living in sin are also invited to the diplomatic receptions there?

Blabbeano notes that the letter was signed by the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo who is the new envoy from the Vatican to the Dominican Republic.  Bishop Okolo replaced Polish Archbishop Josef Wesolowski as Vatican Ambassador in the DR after the later was forcibly removed by Pope Francis amid a sex abuse investigation.

But somebody has been leaking internal correspondence over there. Yesterday, accent.com.do published  a January 20 letter from Steven M. Fisher, the British Ambassador to the DR to Bishop Okolo calling the discrimination of Ambassador Brewster’s husband  “unjustifiable.”

Le reitero la sugerencia que le hice en mi correo del 18 de enero de modificar la invitación para que podamos incluir a todos de manera igualitaria.

En caso de que se mantenga la decisión de no tratar a todos por igual, respetando su estatus civil, lamentablemente me temo que no participaría en el cóctel.

Ambassador Fisher urged that the invitation be modified to be more inclusive and if not, then he would not be in attendance. We are glad that the event was cancelled.

The Dominican Republic’s foreign ministry reportedly had no objection to the attendance of Mr. Satawake.  So, of course, the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, had to defend DR’s constitution because it would be “completely wrong” for a gay person to attend an event where the president of the republic is also in attendance.

Because what –  Mr. Satawake might bite President Medina?

Had this event went through as planned, Mr. Satawake, the husband of President Obama’s top representative in Santo Domingo would have been excluded from subsequent diplomatic functions for similar reasons.

Yo! Bishop Okolo, you keep at this, you’ll end up with lots of stale canapés the next couple of years.

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Officially In: James “Wally” Brewster, Jr. to the Dominican Republic, an Island of Grace and Tolerance

 By Domani Spero

On June 21, President Obama announced his intent to nominate James “Wally” Brewster, Jr., as the next Ambassador to the Dominican Republic. The WH released the following brief bio:

James “Wally” Brewster, Jr. is the Senior Managing Partner for SB&K Global, a brand strategy and consumer dynamics consulting firm based in Chicago, Illinois.  Before starting SB&K Global in 2010, he was an Officer and Senior Vice President of Marketing and Corporate Communications with General Growth Properties (GGP), a real estate investment trust headquartered in Chicago.  Prior to joining GGP in 1996, Mr. Brewster worked in management at several real estate companies in Texas, including The Rouse Company and the DeBartolo Corporation.  Earlier in his career, he held marketing and management positions with Carla Francis, Inc. and the Jim Collins Company in Dallas, Texas.

Mr. Brewster is a National LGBT Co-Chair for the Democratic National Committee and currently serves on the Board of the Human Rights Campaign Fund.

According to Open Secrets of the Center for Responsive Politics, Mr. Brewster bundled $500,000+ for the Obama 2012 reelection.

www.barackobama.com also listed Mr. Brewster and Bob Satawake  as Obama For America and Obama Victory Fund 2012 Volunteer Fundraisers who  raised $100,000-$200,000.

Six out of 16 total ambassadorial appointments to Santo Domingo since 1960 or 37.5% went to non-career appointees.  If confirmed, Mr. Brewster would replace another political appointee Raul Yzaguirre who was appointed chief of mission to the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo in November 2010.  Ambassador Yzaguirre’s May 6, 2013 announcement of departure says that he is leaving for “health reasons” and that  he and his wife will return to their home in the city of Mt. Airy, Maryland.

In late June, the AP reported that religious groups in the Dominican Republic said they are outraged by the nomination of a gay U.S. ambassador to the conservative Caribbean country.  CNS quotes DR Bishop Pablo Cedano saying that if Brewster becomes the U.S. ambassador, “he is going to suffer and will have to leave.”  DR Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez is on YouTube calling the nominee  maricón, a derogatory term.

This past Monday, there was a “Black Monday” protest organized by religious leaders to demonstrate their disapproval of the openly gay nominee.

Here is an excerpt from the 2012 Human Rights Report on DR:

Treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals ranged from ambivalent tolerance to staunch homophobia.  No specific law protects individuals against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and NGOs reported widespread social discrimination in areas of society including health care, education, and the workplace.  LGBT individuals often faced intimidation and harassment…According to various reports, LGBT individuals were arrested without reason, not hired, denied access to rent/own homes, and denied access to health services….Members of the LGBT community often gathered informally in public spaces, especially in Duarte Park of the colonial zone in Santo Domingo.  However, formal activities of LGBT organizations were generally subjected to approval by the Community Board of Neighbors, an institution influenced by the Catholic Church and its conservative views on LGBT issues.

As an aside, diplomatic courtesy requires that the sending state ascertain if the proposed ambassadorial appointee is acceptable to receiving state.  The acquiescence of the receiving state is showed by its granting of an agrément to the appointment.  The Obama administration would  not have released this nominee’s name had it not received the approval of the Dominican Republic.

The Dominican Embassy in Washington told The Cable:

“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 US Senate.”

As of this writing, no schedule has been announced yet for Mr. Brewster’s confirmation hearing.

Related item:

June 21, 2013  President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts

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