Tags: US | LGBT rights | Randy Berry | John Kerry

US Names First Envoy for 'Human Rights of LGBT Persons'

By    |   Monday, 23 February 2015 04:48 PM

The U.S. Department of State has named a special envoy for LGBT global rights, even as same-sex activities remain illegal in 76 countries.

Secretary of State John Kerry announced the appointment of openly-gay consul general Randy Berry at the U.S. Embassy in the Netherlands as the "first-ever special envoy for the human rights of LGBT persons," Kerry said in a statement.

Berry, who has worked in Nepal, New Zealand, Uganda, Bangladesh, Egypt and South Africa, will take on the task, Kerry said, to "significantly advance efforts underway to move towards a world free from violence and discrimination against LGBT persons."

Kerry's action in appointing Berry pre-empts legislation drafted by Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Calif., calling for the establishment of the position, the Boston Globe noted.

The bill died in the last session of Congress but was re-introduced in this session. Berry's appointment will not require Congressional confirmation, the Advocate stated, adding: "Whether the bill would pass in the Republican-controlled Congress is doubtful, given some legislators' stated hostility to LGBT rights."

"Nations that place LGBT people in the crosshairs of danger must know that the United States will not turn a blind eye," Human Rights Campaign (HRC) President Chad Griffin said in a statement.

Griffin noted that over 26,000 HRC members had contacted Kerry's office, urging the appointment of a special envoy for LGBT rights.

Griffin said that same-sex conduct is illegal in 76 countries and punishable by death in ten. In 2014, the HRC reports, there were over 200 cases reported of transgendered persons murdered in 28 countries.

Jessica Stern, director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, calling the move a "welcome development and historic moment," said in a statement: "The potential of this position to heighten credibility and increase resources for LGBT issues in international development and cooperation comes just in time."

Kerry commented in his statement: "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.

"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.

"It's time to assert the equality and dignity of all persons, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity."

The Globe noted that the U.S. began issuing immigrant visas to same-sex couples in 2013 and has condemned Uganda's anti-gay law.

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The U.S. Department of State has named a special envoy for LGBT global rights, even as same-sex activities remain illegal in 76 countries.
US, LGBT rights, Randy Berry, John Kerry
Monday, 23 February 2015 04:48 PM
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