The U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed the first openly gay ambassador to the Dominican Republic Thursday.
James “Wally” Brewster, a former fundraiser and LGBT cochair for the Democratic National Committee, can now officially serve as the U.S. ambassador to the Spanish-speaking Caribbean nation of nine million, reports the Chicago Sun-Times.
“I was proud to support Wally Brewster’s confirmation to be the next U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, and I am pleased that my colleagues in the Senate unanimously agree,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said in a statement.
Brewster's confirmation comes despite a flurry of controversy and protests from Dominican leaders and organizations, which began shortly after President Obama nominated the gay candidate in June.
In early July, a high-ranking Catholic cardinal used an antigay slur to refer to Brewster, and implied that Brewster's nomination indicated a "lack of respect" for traditional Dominican values from the Obama administration. Catholic Vicar Pablo Cedano issued a vague threat when Brewster's nomination was first announced, telling the Associated Press, "If he arrives, he'll suffer and be forced to leave," according to The Cable.
Religious leaders also reportedly organized a "Lunes Negro" demonstration, asking religious Dominicans to dress in all black, wear a black armband, or display a black banner or ribbon on their car to show their displeasure with Obama's nominee, according to Foreign Policy's blog, The Cable.
The confirmation is a cause for celebration among LGBT rights leaders, who lauded Obama's choice of candidate. Brewster is the sixth openly gay ambassador nominated by the Obama administration. Previous nominees who have been confirmed this year include John Berry, the newlywed gay ambassador to Australia who was nominated at the same time as Brewster, James Costos as U.S. Ambassador to Spain, and Rufus Gifford as U.S. Ambassador to Denmark. Daniel Baer, who is currently a deputy assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, was nominated to serve as the ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in June.
“All of us at Victory are delighted by this news,” said Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund. “Wally’s confirmation makes a powerful statement for the opportunity that LGBT Americans have to promote understanding and inspire respect on the world stage.”