Secretary of State John Kerry formally announced Monday that Randy Berry has been named the U.S.'s first special envoy for the human rights of LGBT persons.
"Defending and promoting the human rights of LGBT persons is at the core of our commitment to advancing human rights globally – the heart and conscience of our diplomacy," Kerry said in a statement announcing the appointment. "That's why we're working to overturn laws that criminalize consensual same-sex conduct in countries around the world."
Before being named to this post, Berry served as consul general to the Netherlands. He has previously held diplomatic positions in countries including New Zealand, Nepal, Egypt, and Uganda.
BuzzFeed News reported earlier this month that Secretary Kerry would tap Berry, using his own authority to establish the new special envoy office after legislation to create the post sponsored by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) had stalled in Congress. BBerry will sit inside the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, and will be charged with coordinating the U.S.'s work to promote LGBT rights abroad.
U.S. foreign policy first began to prioritize LGBT rights under former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who helped make the United States a leading supporter of attempts to protect LGBT people under international protections for human rights. This reversed long-standing opposition from U.S. diplomats to these efforts under former President George W. Bush.
Here is the full statement from Secretary of State John Kerry:
STATEMENT BY SECRETARY KERRY
February 23, 2015
Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBT Persons
I could not be more proud to announce Randy Berry as the first-ever Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBT Persons.
We looked far and wide to find the right American official for this important assignment. Randy's a leader. He's a motivator. But most importantly for this effort, he's got vision. Wherever he's served – from Nepal to New Zealand, from Uganda to Bangladesh, from Egypt to South Africa, and most recently as Consul General in Amsterdam – Randy has excelled. He's a voice of clarity and conviction on human rights. And I'm confident that Randy's leadership as our new Special Envoy will significantly advance efforts underway to move towards a world free from violence and discrimination against LGBT persons.
Defending and promoting the human rights of LGBT persons is at the core of our commitment to advancing human rights globally – the heart and conscience of our diplomacy. That's why we're working to overturn laws that criminalize consensual same-sex conduct in countries around the world. It's why we're building our capacity to respond rapidly to violence against LGBT persons, and it's why we're working with governments, civil society, and the private sector through the Global Equality Fund to support programs advancing the human rights of LGBT persons worldwide.
Too often, in too many countries, LGBT persons are threatened, jailed, and prosecuted because of who they are or who they love. Too many governments have proposed or enacted laws that aim to curb freedom of expression, association, religion, and peaceful protest. More than 75 countries still criminalize consensual same-sex activity.
At the same time, and often with our help, governments and other institutions, including those representing all religions, are taking steps to reaffirm the universal human rights of all persons, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. So while this fight is not yet won, this is no time to get discouraged. It's time to stay active. It's time to assert the equality and dignity of all persons, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity. And with Randy helping to lead our efforts, I am confident that's exactly what we can and will do.