LGBT human rights first-ever international envoy appointed today. Secretary of State John Kerry announced the U.S. State Department’s choice of Randy W. Berry.
The idea of an envoy was endorsed by several groups and individuals, including American Jewish World Service, the Human Rights Campaign, Human Rights First. and Sen. Ed Markey. Sen. Ed Markey then introduced a bill to create the envoy post.
Human Rights Campaign (HRC) president Chad Griffin gave the statement that this movement is proof to everyone that human rights and gay rights are the same thing, and that it is essential that people realize this given how much violence and persecution that LGBT individuals all around the world are subject to on a regular basis. Griffin went on to state that he applauded President Obama and Senator Kerry on supporting the rights of LGBT people abroad.
Executive Director, Jessica Stern, of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission stated this is about integrating rights of LGBT people into U.S. foreign policy. She went on to state that the envoy will usher in a new morality of governments everywhere. The focus is on getting rid of prejudice and abuse on millions worldwide. Many LGBT people remain without access to adequate housing, healthcare, employment and education. Stern says it should make sense to any nation concerned with getting rid of poverty and LGBT discrimination through economic development.
The envoy will be about moving forward the State Department’s initiatives to protect the human rights of LGBT people, building partnerships with LGBT activists around the world, and responding to discrimination and violence against LGBT people. Berry’s leadership will advance efforts under way to move towards a world free from violence and discrimination against LGBT persons stated Sen. Kerry.
Berry will be leaving his current post as consul general to the Netherlands, where he started in August 3, 2012, in order to accept his new role. Before the Netherlands’ post, he was United States Consul General in Auckland, New Zealand from 2009 to 2012 and Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu, Nepal from 2007 to 2009. He has also served at U.S. posts in Bangladesh, Egypt, Uganda and South Africa as a foreign service officer.
Berry’s appointment is the latest move by the Obama administration to make LGBT rights a prominent part of its human rights efforts around the world. In 2011 in a speech in Geneva, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gave the same essential statement that Griffin recently did. The White House earlier this year included human rights protection for the first time for LGBT people in its formal national security strategy.
AP’s reporting of Berry’s appointment mentions transgender rights as a subject of heightened focus within the Obama administration. Secretary of defense, Ashton Carter, is responsive to allowing trans people to serve openly in the military.
Anti-gay laws inhibit LGBT advocacy in three countries. Same-sex activity is criminalized in 76 countries and is punishable by death in 10. There continues to be numerous undocumented cases of violence against transgender people throughout the world.
The newly appointed special envoy will be a step in the right direction for LGBT people and their human rights. This means that it is not over and there is a lot of hard work ahead. Nonetheless, it is a step in the right direction for the equality of all human beings.
Written by Michele Enli
Photo by Sam T – License