Conservative Christian groups in the Dominican Republic have renewed their efforts to oust U.S. Ambassador James "Wally" Brewster following his visit to a school accompanied by his husband, Bob Satawake.
"Mr. Brewster approaches our children in public and private schools, in sports tournaments, and other youth activities presenting Mr. Bob Satawake as his husband," the Catholic bishops' conference for the Dominican Republic wrote in a statement issued on Tuesday. "They are trying to confuse our youth and children by presenting a distorted model of the family, and in that way disparaging the authority of our laws" defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
Brewster, the former LGBT co-chair of the Democratic National Committee, was one of a several out gay ambassadors named by President Barack Obama in 2013. Most of these have caused little controversy in the countries to which they are posted, but Brewster has encountered stiff resistance from religious leaders from the minute he was nominated. The country's cardinal called him a "faggot" ("maricón") in a press conference denouncing his appointment that June, and the cardinal has continued to use rhetoric toward Brewster so offensive that Senator Dick Durbin wrote to Pope Francis in protest in December 2015.
The new outcry began after pictures appeared on social media earlier this month of Brewster and Satawake visiting with a group of school children accompanied by accusations that they were there to "promote homosexuality."
"The ambassador of the U.S. and his husband in a school promoting gay relationships ... and the authorities allow them to do it."
In an appearance on a Dominican radio program a few days after the outcry began, Brewster said that the photo making the rounds was not from a recent school visit, but from an older visit he and Satawake had made to a low-income school. His most recent school visit was to participate in a United Nations week during which students discuss international affairs, he said, and he was there to speak about U.S. diplomacy.
In response to a question about whether they had set a bad example for the school children, Brewster said, "We're promoting equality around the world ... [and] our objective worldwide is to promote LGBT rights. That's not why we went to the school, but we're not going to have people continue to condemn and try to keep Bob and I or anyone else in the closet. because that's not who we are — and we're proud of who we are, and we're proud of representing the values of making sure that people aren't marginalized."
Brewster has made promoting LGBT rights part of his work in the country, including help establish an LGBT Chamber of Commerce with support from the U.S. Agency for International Development and meeting with local LGBT advocates as U.S. ambassadors in many countries have done.
Along with the bishops' protests, the country's largest evangelical organization, the Dominican Council of Evangelical Unity, launched a petition on the White House's website calling for Brewster's removal that collected more than 30,000 signatures in one week.
The White House responded to Brewster's critics by issuing a statement to Dominican and U.S. media in which National Security Advisor Susan Rice said Brewster "has the full support of this President, this White House and the entire U.S. government.
"Bigotry in any form is against the universal values that we promote and does not support the social inclusion that we believe is important for a free society to succeed," she said. "We will continue to support Ambassador Brewster as he advances universal human rights."