January 24, 2017 at 12:37 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Future of U.S. LGBT envoy remains unclear

Randy Berry, gay news, Washington Blade

Special U.S. Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons Randy Berry. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Trump administration has not publicly commented on whether it plans to eliminate the position of special U.S. envoy to promote LGBT and intersex rights abroad.

Former Secretary of State John Kerry in 2015 announced the creation of the position within the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

Randy Berry, who is a career Foreign Service officer, has been in the position since April 2015. He has traveled to Jamaica, Uganda and more than 40 other countries over the last two years.

J-Flag, Randy Berry, Dane Lewis, Todd Larson, gay news, Washington Blade

From left; Special U.S. Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons Randy Berry, J-FLAG Executive Director Dane Lewis and Todd Larson, a former U.S. Agency for International Development senior advisor, attend a reception at the home of U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica Luis Moreno in Kingston, Jamaica, on May 21, 2015. (Photo courtesy of J-FLAG)

The State Department’s website currently identifies Berry as “deputy assistant secretary and special envoy for the human rights of LGBTI persons.” It also says his term is from Jan. 20 — the day that President Trump took office — to “present.”

“He currently serves as deputy assistant secretary of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor,” reads Berry’s bio. “Concurrently, he also serves as the State Department’s Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons, a position he has held since April 2015.”

CatholicCitizens.org, a Catholic Citizens of Illinois newsletter, on Jan. 22 posted an article to its website that says the Obama administration “positioned their top U.S. homosexual rights diplomat into a key position within the State Department which will make it harder for the Trump administration to change current U.S. policy opposing traditional values on human sexuality.”

CatholicCitizens.org cited an “informed source” who said Berry was moved to the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. It also said he had become a “career DAS (deputy assistant secretary.)”

The LGBT envoy position that Kerry created was within the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

The State Department has not responded to the Washington Blade’s request for comment on the CatholicCitizens.org report.

Trump dismisses request to remove ‘activists’ from State Dept.

The creation of the special LGBT envoy was part of the Obama administration’s efforts to promote LGBT and intersex rights around the world.

Former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson — who Trump has nominated to become secretary of state — raised eyebrows among LGBT and intersex advocates earlier this month when he declined to specifically say whether “gay rights are human rights” during his confirmation hearing.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who has been tapped to become the next U.S. ambassador to the U.N., told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week during her confirmation hearing that American values “do not allow for discrimination of any kind to anyone.” Haley did not, however, specifically mention LGBT and intersex people in response to a question about supporting their rights abroad that U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) asked.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins last month asked the incoming administration to remove “activists” from the State Department who promote LGBT and reproductive rights abroad. A spokesperson for the Trump transition team told the Blade that any suggestion “that discrimination of any kind will be condoned or tolerated in a Trump administration is simply absurd.”

Trump on Monday issued an executive order that restores the Mexico City Policy — also known as the Global Gag Rule — that bans federal funding of overseas groups that provide abortions and related information.

“The Trump administration and Republican leadership have made no secret of their dangerous obsession with rolling back reproductive rights,” said U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) in a statement. “President Trump’s reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule ignores decades of research, instead favoring ideological politics over women and families.”

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Monday also approved Tillerson’s nomination by a 11-10 vote margin. The full Senate is widely expected to confirm him in the coming days.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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