NGLCC Global Reflects on Recent Work in the Dominican Republic
| By Michael Castellano
When reflecting on all the achievements we have collectively won for LGBT equality under the Obama Administration, we realize we have come a long way. From repealing Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell to extending protections under the 1964 Civil Rights Act to transgender employees, from passing Assembly Bill AB1678 for LGBT business owners in California to striking down the Defense of Marriage Act, we have certainly seen many incredible advances.
Yet, we must not forget that these victories did not come without significant struggle, and we must remember that many members of our international community continue to experience startling setbacks and even increased anti-LGBT sentiments in the countries in which they reside. As an organization, we believe that President Obama’s Presidential Memorandum on International Initiatives to Advance the Human Rights of LGBT Persons has been one of the most important achievements of his administration as it relates to promoting the humans rights of LGBT people overseas. In December of 2011, President Obama declared that it is the responsibility of U.S. officials serving overseas to “combat discrimination, homophobia and intolerance on the basis of LGBT status or conduct;” under this mandate NGLCC Global carries out its important and groundbreaking work with the LGBT Global Development Partnership. In partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and corporate partners including Wells Fargo and MillerCoors, NGLCC has furthered this U.S. policy initiative by making significant strides towards economic empowerment for LGBT people in developing countries and emerging economies.
A timely example of this critical work comes from the Dominican Republic, where NGLCC recently hosted its 4th LGBT Summit of the Americas and launched its newest international chamber affiliate, the Dominican Republic LGBT Chamber of Commerce (CCLGBTRD). The Summit, which took place from March 2nd to 3rd at the JW Marriott in Santo Domingo, convened over 150 individuals, including LGBT and allied business owners, activists, U.S. government officials, and corporate representatives—including a keynote presentation by Marriott International—for two days of educational sessions on LGBT rights and economic inclusion. For many small business owners in the Dominican Republic, the launch of a LGBT chamber of commerce with connections to new business opportunities locally and overseas equates to tangible advances in economic growth and personal livelihood. NGLCC Co-Founder and CEO, Chance Mitchell, stated in his opening remarks that, “The United States is the Dominican Republic’s largest trading partner, and between our two countries, we do more than $4 billion dollars of business annually. As a global LGBT community, so much potential exists for us to do business across our borders, and hence forth our organizations will serve as that bridge.”
Also in attendance was Ambassador James “Wally” Brewster, Jr., who along with his husband has been a tremendous champion for diversity and inclusion in the country since President Obama appointed him to serve in the Dominican Republic in 2013. Ambassador Brewster said that “The Cámara de Comercio LGBT de la República Dominicana is an organization that will provide opportunity and avenues for all companies, large and small, the ability to connect with some of the most powerful and leading resources in commerce throughout the world… This will allow you to increase your resources, locate additional opportunities, and build a platform for entrepreneurial success.”
Despite the many advancements we have seen here in the United States in terms of LGBT equality, there is a great deal of work to be done in promoting LGBT rights overseas. In such a culturally and religiously conservative environment, Ambassador Brewster’s assignment to the Dominican Republic has not gone without its share of opposition, and in fact, following the launch event and Summit, several anti-LGBT proponents went so far as to call for his removal. NGLCC commends the U.S. Embassy and USAID Mission in Santo Domingo for its continued support of LGBT people and for its commitment to promoting human rights.
At NGLCC, we believe that the growth of small and medium business enterprises is a proven path to quick and effective broad-based economic development, and that this economic approach is particularly suited to advancing the global LGBT community, especially in developing countries and emerging markets. Furthermore, the “business case for inclusion” can often go a long way in combatting homophobia, and transphobia in some of the most difficult contexts. We know that discrimination and exclusion lead to an unfortunate waste of human potential, talent, and productivity, and everyone reaps the economic benefits of an inclusive society that embraces its LGBT population. Through the work of NGLCC Global and its international partners, we are proud to continue our work in advancing LGBT equality for communities around the world.