Anti-LGBT Groups March in DR While OAS Debates Gay Rights Across the Americas

Lead Photo: EFE/Orlando Barría

There is no rest for the wicked – no matter the circumstance. On the heels of the tragic mass shooting at Pulse nightclub – which served as a sanctuary for the queer Latinx community living in and around Orlando – a group of Catholic, Christian, and Protestant protestors flooded the streets of the Dominican Republic with discriminatory rhetoric targeting the LGBTQ+ community. Led by monsignor Victor Masalles, the group marched Sunday from Colegio Calazans to the headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – where the Organization of American States held its General Meeting. According to Acento, the demonstrators spoke up against gay marriage and abortion, and accused the OAS of trying to push an LGBTQ+ agenda in the DR.

Though the march wasn’t a direct response to the Sunday morning shooting that left more than 50 dead in Orlando, it comes at a time when the LGBTQ+ community is hurting. The protest served as a stark reminder that homophobia and transphobia still permeate in our society. And unfortunately, this wasn’t the only instance. Just hours before the assembly kicked off, a group of LGBTQ+ activists met with the OEA secretary at a hotel in the DR. However, the hotel’s security didn’t allow transgender women to use the women’s bathroom. “I have attended this assembly for six years and this is the first time that I’ve seen this,” Wilson Castañeda, director of Caribe Afirmativo, told El Espectador. “Trans women have always been able to use women’s bathrooms at these meetings.”

Both events have sparked impassioned outcry from DR’s LGBT community, with James Walter Brewster Jr., the U.S. ambassador to the DR, writing a Facebook post in response to the march. “Where is their humanity???” he said. “Front page in the Dominican Republic today! Leaders of the Catholic and Evangelical Church marched against LGBT rights only hours after the mass tragedy in Orlando. Still stunned and horrified that this event was not cancelled as the rest of the world was showing an outpouring of love and support for the victims and their families.”

The next day, the LGBTQ+ community came out to Santo Domingo in full force, demanding clear and decisive actions to deter homophobic attacks across the Americas. According to Al Momento, activist Deivis Ventura said that in 2016, about 500 LGBTQ members have been killed in the Americas. And Camila Zavala from Paraguay denounced religious groups for spreading their hate, while reminding them that the Orlando attacks could have happened anywhere. “It’s not just in Orlando. It’s not just in Honduras. This happens in Paraguay, happens in Argentina, happens in Bolivia, happens in all of the countries in the Americas,” she said. “[The church] needs to stop sending its message of hate and needs to start respecting everyone’s human rights.”