US to announce LGBT envoy to promote global rights

US Secretary of State John Kerry

US Secretary of State John Kerry

The Obama administration will soon announce a special envoy to oversee the US government’s efforts to promote LGBT rights around the world.

According to The Boston Globe, the department is already in the process of reviewing candidates and will announce the appointee, who is likely to be gay or lesbian, later this month.

An official told the newspaper that the move had been championed by Secretary of State John Kerry.

“It’s been long in the making, because the Secretary insisted the envoy be a career Foreign Service officer from inside the institution, someone who is part of the fabric of the institution, a diplomat by training,” said the official.

A bill calling for the establishment of an LGBT envoy had been proposed by Massachusetts Senator Edward J. Markey. He welcomed news of the State Department’s action, describing the envoy “as a global model for defending LGBT rights around the world.”

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) also applauded Kerry for creating the new senior-level position.

“For the first time in our nation’s history, LGBT people around the world will have a dedicated, full-time senior advocate in the US State Department,” said HRC President Chad Griffin.

“President Obama and Secretary Kerry have shown tremendous leadership in championing the rights of LGBT people abroad, and we look forward to working closely with whomever is selected for this new role, as we continue to push back against laws and attitudes that lead to human rights violations against LGBT people.”

President Obama’s administration has, at times, taken action against countries that oppress their LGBT citizens, including enacting limited sanctions against Uganda and dropping The Gambia from a US-Africa trade agreement

In January, more than 20 LGBT rights leaders from countries grappling with the persecution of their communities welcomed these moves but also asked that his government’s policies be applied consistently to all nations.

“Mr. President, we ask that the United States make clear, even now, that steps will be taken to respond, without fail, in any country where governments attack us and deny our rights,” the leaders urged.

Same-sex conduct is criminalised in 76 countries, and is punishable by death in 10 of these nations.

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