Secretary of State John Kerry has chosen Randy Berry, an openly gay career diplomat, to be the nation's first LGBT Rights Envoy charged with reducing violence and discrimination toward the LGBT citizens of the world.
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President Obama has pledged to make LGBT rights a foreign policy priority in the final years of his administration, and by way of fulfilling that promise, the State Department has created a new position: Special Envoy for LGBT Human Rights. The special enoy will be responsible for developing programs and incentives to reduce discrimination and violence toward members of the LGBT community throughout the world.
On Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry announced the appointment of longtime foreign service officer Randy Berry (photo left) to be the nation's first LGBT special envoy. Berry, currently the consul general in the Netherlands, has represented the United States in Bangladesh, Egypt, Uganda and South Africa. He is also openly gay. To my mind that makes him a candidate for the rainbow badge of courage, since Mr. Berry will be representing LGBT rights in as many as 75 countries where homosexuality is against the law.
"We looked far and wide to find the right American official for this important assignment," Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement. "Randy’s a leader. He’s a motivator. But most importantly for this effort, he’s got vision."
According to his State Department biography, Randy Berry grew up on his family’s cattle ranch in Custer County, Colorado. He graduated from Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas, and was a Rotary Scholar at the University of Adelaide in Australia. He speaks Spanish and Arabic and worked as an international training manager for America West Airlines in Phoenix, before joining the foreign service.
As special envoy, Mr. Berry will have more tools at his disposal than his winning smile and upbeat personality. The Huffington Post reports he will have access to the State Department's Global Equality Fund, which was created under Hillary Clinton to provide assistance to protect and advance the human rights of LGBT communities.
The appointment of Randy Berry as LGBT Rights Special Envoy is one more sign of the changing mission of the State Department, and the changing attitude of the White House which, for the first time ever, included human rights protections for LGBT people in its 2015 formal national security strategy.
"Defending and promoting the human rights of LGBT persons is at the core of our commitment to advancing human rights globally, said Sec. Kerry in his announcement, calling the goal of LGBT human rights "the heart and conscience of our diplomacy."
Congratulations and good luck to Mr. Berry!
Feature Photo via Twitter
Mr. Berry's portrait via Twitter