THE US appointed its first-ever special envoy on Monday to advocate for LGBT rights worldwide.
Senior diplomat Randy Berry, who is openly-gay, will work to secure equality for LGBT people.
Berry previously served as US Consul General in The Netherlands, and before that he worked for the State Department in Washington DC, Nepal, Bangladesh, Egypt, Uganda, South Africa, and New Zealand.
Advocacy groups have praised the State Department’s appointment of a Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBT Persons, an idea first introduced in a bill sponsored by two Democrat senators.
Senator Edward Markey, one of the bill’s sponsors, said the envoy “will be a global model for defending LGBT rights around the world”.
Jessica Stern, executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, said in a statement: “The US envoy can contribute to a new era in which the conscience of governments everywhere can be focused on the destabilising impact of prejudice that inflicts suffering on millions worldwide.”
“At a moment when many LGBT people around the world are facing persecution and daily violence, this unprecedented appointment shows a historic commitment to the principle that LGBT rights are human rights,” Human Rights Campaign (HRC) president Chad Griffin said, according to a HRC blog post.
The appointment recognises that “in too many countries, LGBT persons are threatened, jailed, and prosecuted because of who they are or what they love”.
Berry’s appointment follows the inclusion of human rights protection for LGBT people for the first time in the White House’s national security strategy, and Obama’s recognition of LGBT people in his State of the Union address this year.
“Too often, in too many countries, LGBT persons are threatened, jailed, and prosecuted because of who they are or who they love,” Kerry commented on the current state of LGBT rights.
“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.”
The news also comes after potential Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, George Bush’s brother, appointed an openly-gay man in his campaign team to head communications.
On Tuesday, Arkansas also enacted a law that fails to recognise discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, leaving the state’s LGBT residents without legal protection.