After a long confirmation process, Chicagoan James "Wally" Brewster, an openly gay businessman and fundraiser for President Obama, was confirmed Nov. 14 as ambassador to the Dominican Republic. Vice President Joseph Biden will swear in Brewster in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 22.
Brewster was nominated for the position in June. He had been working as Managing Partner for SB&K Global, a strategic consulting firm. From 2010-2012, he was a co-chair for President Obama's re-election campaign and a member of the campaign's "Leadership Circle." He also served as a co-chair of LGBT issues for the Democratic National Committee and is on the Board of Human Rights Campaign. He and his partner, Bob Satawake, a managing partner at Jameson Sotheby's International Real Estate, together bundled more than $500,000 for Obama in the last presidential election.
In a Nov. 15 email, Satawake said he and Brewster would be married shortly after the swearing-in ceremony.
"We still can't believe all this has finally happened, as many of you know (thanks to FBI interviews) this process all started back in March," said Satawake. "Thank you so much for your kind words."
In a statement released after the confirmation, which appeared in Chicago Sun-times, Sen. Dick Durbin congratulated Brewster.
"In a meeting in my office after his nomination, Wally reminded me that he has been visiting the Dominican Republic for many years, often spending extended periods of time there," said Durbin. "His understanding of and appreciation for the country and its people were evident. I know that his unique understanding of the Dominican Republic, of our shared interests, and of our future as partners in trade and in security will help to strengthen the ties of our two nations."
Brewster's nomination drew the ire of anti-gay religious groups in the Dominican Republic. Speaking to television reporters, Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez, president of the Conference of the Dominican Episcopate, used the word "maricones""faggots"to describe Brewster. There are no laws against homosexuality in the Dominican Republic, but members of the LGBT community have been subject to harassment, and the nation's constitution bans same-sex marriage.
The administration of President Danilo Medina was initially silent on the matter. But officials in the Dominican Republic's U.S. Embassy told the publication Foreign Policy that Brewster's nomination would not have been announced had the government not accepted the nomination.
Brewster is the fifth openly LGBT ambassador confirmed this year, after Daniel Baer (Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe), John Berry (Australia), James Costos (Spain) and Rufus Gifford (Denmark).