President Obama was busy last month celebrating Gay Pride, and he’s receiving some criticism for it. If accepted by the Senate, five people nominated to ambassador positions abroad will more than double the number of out gay U.S. ambassadors.
Daniel Baer has been nominated to be the ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), based in Vienna, Austria. James Costos has been nominated to become the ambassador of Spain after he and his partner raised over $1 million for Obama’s reelection. John Berry has been nominated for Australia, and Rufus Gifford, for Denmark. Gifford was Obama’s fundraising director for 2012.
The most widely-publicized nomination has been that of James “Wally” Brewster, set for the ambassador position in the Dominican Republic. Also part of Obama’s fundraising team, Brewster was another one of the million-plus earners.
The opponent for the nomination comes from the Catholic Church within the Dominican Republic. Many Roman Catholic leaders have considered the nomination an affront to the church and the Catholic roots of the country. Disagreements within the country have been so fierce that Santo Domingo Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús Lópes Rodríguez referred to Brewster with offensive slang, laughing after replying to a reporter’s question switching subjects in an interview with, “We go from faggots and lesbians to chickens?” The Cardinal specifically used the word “maricón,” typically translated as “faggot” in Spanish.
The nomination procedure for ambassador positions must be approved by both governments before the position is considered official, and both the U.S. and Dominican governments quickly reacted to show their support for the nomination in spite of the religious controversy. The U.S. Embassy in the Dominican reassured the country by saying that “Brewster arrives as an ambassador. He’s not coming here as an activist for the gay community.” The Dominican embassy in Washington D.C. announced that Brewster “has already been accepted by the Dominican Republic as the next United States Ambassador to the country” and that “it is the position of the Government of the Dominican Republic that a person’s sexual preference is strictly a personal matter.” Coming full circle, the Dominican president’s advisor stated that “It would be indelicate for the Dominican state to refuse the nomination now.”
Progressive within the Caribbean, the population has pushed back against the Catholic Church’s statements. The lgbt community publically protested the church’s decision, excited for Brewster’s appointment, and criticized the church on its silence of a 2003 pedophilia case. At least one Catholic priest has publically declared welcome for Brewster. Further, two informal polls by Dominican newspapers, Hoy and Pulso Dominicano, showed support for Brewster’s nomination: 60 percent of respondents were against how the Catholic Church criticized Brewster, and 57 percent believe the government should promote more opportunities for gays to hold public office.
Obama’s actions are in line with his December 2011 statement addressing lgbt issues internationally being human rights, and since then have been more openly progressive on lgbt issues internally and externally.
For the five nominees, they have to be officially nominated by the Senate, where there shouldn’t be any issues for any individual. Brewster’s nomination should be secure if the Dominican Republic’s president Danilo Medina doesn’t back down on the nomination due to pressure from the Catholic Church.