The US named its first international envoy for gay rights today, tasking a veteran diplomat with leading the country's efforts to fight violence and discrimination against LGBT individuals overseas. Randy Berry, currently the consul general in the Netherlands, will promote human rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals, says John Kerry. A longtime foreign service officer, Berry has served at US posts in Bangladesh, Egypt, Uganda, and South Africa, and speaks Spanish and Arabic. "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 says. He cited overturning laws that still criminalize same-sex activity in more than 75 countries as a specific priority.
Long in the works, Berry's appointment as a special envoy is the latest move by the Obama administration to make LGBT rights a prominent part of its human rights efforts around the world. Earlier this year, the White House for the first time included human rights protection for LGBT people in its formal national security strategy. The announcement also comes amid a heightened public focus on transgender rights. Ash Carter, on his first overseas trip as defense secretary, suggested he was open to allowing transgender people to serve openly in the US military. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said today that President Obama welcomed Carter's comments and agrees that all Americans qualified for military service should be able to serve.