Berry, who is openly gay, has been the consul general at the U.S. Consulate in Amsterdam since August 2012.
He was the consul general at the U.S. Consulate in Auckland, New Zealand, from 2009-2012 and the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Nepal from 2007-2009. Berry during his State Department career has also been posted in D.C., Bangladesh, Egypt, Uganda and South Africa.
Buzz Feed in recent weeks reported the State Department had tapped Berry for the position.
“Randy’s a leader,” said Secretary of State John Kerry in a statement to the Washington Blade. “He’s a motivator. But most importantly for this effort, he’s got vision. Wherever he’s served — from Nepal to New Zealand, from Uganda to Bangladesh, from Egypt to South Africa, and most recently as consul general in Amsterdam — Randy has excelled. He’s a voice of clarity and conviction on human rights. And I’m confident that Randy’s leadership as our new special envoy will significantly advance efforts underway to move towards a world free from violence and discrimination against LGBT persons.”
A State Department official told the Blade earlier this month the envoy would be an “openly gay Foreign Service officer.”
“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.
Kerry in his statement to the Blade highlighted the State Department’s Global Equality Fund that seeks to promote LGBT rights around the world. He also noted homosexuality remains criminalized in more than 70 countries.
“At the same time, and often with our help, governments and other institutions, including those representing all religions, are taking steps to reaffirm the universal human rights of all persons, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Kerry. “So while this fight is not yet won, this is no time to get discouraged. It’s time to stay active. It’s time to assert the equality and dignity of all persons, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity. And with Randy helping to lead our efforts, I am confident that’s exactly what we can and will do.”
Jessica Stern, executive director of the International Lesbian and Gay Human Rights Commission, welcomed Berry’s appointment.
“The U.S. envoy can contribute to a new era in which the conscience of governments everywhere can be focused on the destabilizing impact of prejudice and abuse that inflicts suffering on millions worldwide,” said Stern in a statement. “Human rights should be a priority for every government in both domestic and foreign policy.”
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, also applauded the State Department.
“At a moment when many LGBT people around the world are facing persecution and daily violence, this unprecedented appointment shows a historic commitment to the principle that LGBT rights are human rights,” he said. “President Obama and Secretary Kerry have shown tremendous leadership in championing the rights of LGBT people abroad. Now, 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.”
U.S. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) last year introduced a bill — the International Human Rights Defense Act — that would have created an LGBT envoy within the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.
Markey and California Congressman Alan Lowenthal reintroduced the proposal last month.