The nomination of James “Wally” Brewster to become U.S. ambassador to the Dominican Republic was widely touted because he is openly gay.
He would become the seventh U.S. ambassador in history to be openly gay.
But religious groups in the conservative Caribbean country say they are outraged by Brewster’s nomination – and they are asking the administration of Dominican President Danilo Medina to outright reject him.
Rev. Cristobal Cardozo, leader of the Dominican Evangelical Fraternity, said he worried about the message that Brewster's presence might send.
"It's an insult to good Dominican customs," he said.
Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus Lopez, president of the Conference of the Dominican Episcopate, echoed similar sentiments.
"You can expect anything from the U.S.," said Lopez, who is also the archbishop of Santo Domingo.
Meanwhile, Vicar Pablo Cedano criticized the nomination as "a lack of respect, of consideration, that they send us that kind of person as ambassador."
"If he arrives, he'll suffer and will be forced to leave," Cedano warned, without elaborating.
U.S. Embassy spokesman Daniel Foote said in a brief statement to reporters that Brewster was nominated because of his skills as an international businessman and his ideas on democracy and human rights.
"Brewster arrives as an ambassador, he's not coming here as an activist for the gay community," Foote said.
Local gay and lesbian activists condemned the outrage, saying the words of religious officials were filled with hate.
Nominating a gay man as ambassador should be viewed as normal, according to a statement by the umbrella nonprofit LGBT Collective.
The groups' stance "contrasts with the silence maintained by prelates and pastors when it comes to sexual assaults on children," said Leonardo Sanchez, of the nonprofit gay group Friends, Always Friends.
Officials with Medina's administration have declined to comment on the issue.
"It would be in bad taste for the state to comment on this nomination," said Cesar Pina, a judicial consultant to the presidency.
The debate comes as activists prepare for an annual gay pride parade scheduled for Sunday in the capital of Santo Domingo, which has hosted the parade for about a decade.
Brewster is currently a senior managing partner for the Chicago consulting firm SB&K Global. He also was a fundraiser for Obama and an inaugural committee contributor.
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.