Openly gay U.S. Ambassador spurs conversation around LGBT rights in the Dominican Republic

The openly-gay U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Wally Brewster, has helped to catalyze the LGBT-rights movement in the country, according to an opinion piece published Monday in The New York Times.  Since assuming his post, Brewster has drawn both accolades and criticism for promoting human rights and refusing to closet himself.

Since his appointment, Brewster has repeatedly been the subject of verbal attacks by senior Dominican leaders in the Roman Catholic Church.  Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez, the Archbishop of Santo Domingo, has repeatedly called Brewster the gay slur “marión,” and recently dismissively stated that the Ambassador’s place, “as the wife of a man,” was at home.  The comments have led the State Department to make official complaints to the Vatican.

Homophobic opposition notwithstanding, Brewster both directly and indirectly has spurred the LGBT rights movement in the Dominican Republic.  He has met with activists around issues surrounding HIV/AIDS prevention, he helped organize a Dominican LGBT chamber of commerce, and the State Department’s Global Equality Fund has made grants to LGBT advocacy organizations in the country.  His simple presence, however, has helped to drive a national conversation around issues of sexual orientation and gender identity.  For the first time, LGBT Dominicans are openly running for local political office, and newspaper columnists have increasingly started to explore issues of “prejudice and tolerance.”

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