More than 75 countries still criminalize consensual same-sex activity. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in many places are threatened, jailed and prosecuted because of who they are or whom they love.

On February 24, Secretary of State John Kerry announced that career diplomat Randy Berry will be the first special envoy for the human rights of LGBT persons, with the task of ending violence and discrimination against them.

“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 said.

In Berry, the State Department has found a visionary leader who is “a voice of clarity and conviction on human rights,” Kerry said.

The United States maintains that LGBT rights are simply human rights. Berry will lead the State Department’s mission to achieve these goals:

  • Overturn laws that criminalize consensual same-sex conduct in countries around the world.
  • Build U.S. capacity to respond rapidly to violence against LGBT persons.
  • Work with governments, civil society and the private sector through the Global Equality Fund to support programs advancing the human rights of LGBT persons worldwide.
  • Help and encourage governments and other institutions to take steps to reaffirm the universal human rights of all persons, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Special Envoy Berry is " a voice of clarity and conviction on human rights," Secretary Kerry said. (State Dept.)
Special Envoy Randy Berry is “a voice of clarity and conviction on human rights,” Secretary Kerry said. (State Dept.)

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), which is the largest LGBT civil rights advocacy group in the United States, welcomed Berry’s appointment. The appointment comes at “a moment when many LGBT people around the world are facing persecution and daily violence,” said HRC President Chad Griffin.

“Working closely with this new envoy, we’ve got to work harder than ever to create new allies, push back on human rights violators, and support the brave leaders and organizations that fight for LGBT rights around the world,” Griffin said.