On this International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia, I'm reminded of the privilege and opportunity I have to work hard to protect, preserve and advance the human rights of the global LGBT community. Secretary Kerry said, “International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia is a call to action, a plea to stand with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex communities (LGBTI) across the world and reaffirm our commitment to the equality and dignity of all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Discrimination against LGBTI persons must end -- and it must end now.”
In 2011, President Obama and then-Secretary Clinton identified these issues as a foreign policy priority. And now in 2015, I am working with Secretary Kerry to approach this policy priority in a consistent and meaningful manner. In my role as the Special Envoy, I'll be engaging in an exciting new public-private type of approach. There are key elements of the job that are inward-facing, and those that are more outwardly-focused.
For the former, i'll be playing a coordination role, not only within the State Department, but across Federal agencies to ensure, as much as possible, that our approach to the global protection of the rights of LGBTI persons is uniform, consistent, and focused on tangible results.
On the latter, in addition to the usual diplomacy we do with governments, an essential part of my job will be to engage robustly with civil society organizations, foundations, and businesses, both in the US and overseas, on promoting greater respect for the essential human rights of these people. I will be placing a key priority on engagement with foreign civil society organizations and with leading business interests. The United States must be attentive to the needs and opinions of local civil society organizations, since they are doing the most difficult work, and under some of the most difficult circumstances.
As Secretary Kerry has said, “The human rights of LGBTI persons are fundamental and enshrined in the Universal declaration,” and I think it's important to note that my new role isn't Special Envoy for LGBTI Rights -- it's Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons. It's a meaningful distinction, since the concept underscores the United States’ very approach to these issues -- is a core human rights issue, not a 'special' or 'boutique' issue.
About the Author: Randy Berry serves as the Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons at the U.S. Department of State.
For more information:
- Secretary Kerry's Statement on Commemorating International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia
- Statement by the President on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia
- Statement by National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice on LGBT Rights
- FACT SHEET: Promoting and Protecting the Human Rights of LGBT Persons: A United States Government Priority
- USAID Impact Blog: Ensuring LGBTI People Have Right to Vote in Guatemala