A State Department spokesperson on Thursday told the Blade that Berry is “currently serving as a deputy assistant secretary” in the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.” The spokesperson said Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Scott Busby is currently carrying out the “role and responsibilities” of the special envoy.
Then-Secretary of State John Kerry announced the position in early 2015 as part of the Obama administration’s efforts to promote LGBT and intersex rights abroad. Berry — a career Foreign Service officer — had been in the post since April 2015.
“Mr. Berry is a career Senior Foreign Service Officer who served as the Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons for two years, which is a common duration for foreign service officer assignments,” the State Department spokesperson told the Blade.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in August told U.S. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) — chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — the special envoy position will remain in place under a State Department overall. The State Department spokesperson with whom the Blade spoke on Thursday reiterated Tillerson’s comment.
“The position of the Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons will be retained and continue to be organized under the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL),” said the spokesperson. “The department is looking to fill the position.”
The State Department has continued to support LGBT and intersex rights abroad since President Trump took office.
U.S. Ambassador to Chile Carol Pérez on Nov. 25 spoke at an LGBT and intersex rights rally in the country’s capital of Santiago that drew more than 100,000 people. Eric Catalfamo, a gay official with the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica, earlier this month spoke at the opening of a same-sex marriage conference that took place in the country’s capital of San José.
The U.S., France and Brazil blocked Russian and Egyptian efforts to remove a gay-inclusive reference to discrimination from an Olympics resolution the U.N. General Assembly unanimously adopted on Nov. 13. The U.S. in September voted against a U.N. Human Rights Council resolution that includes a provision condemning the death penalty for those found guilty of committing consensual same-sex sexual acts.
An American official told the Washington Blade after the vote the U.S. did support language “against the discriminatory use of the death penalty based on an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, while also requesting changes to make the larger resolution in accordance with U.S. law” that says the death penalty is legal. The official noted the resolution’s main sponsors “did not take those edits onboard, so we were unable to support the larger resolution, which called for a global moratorium on the death penalty, in spite of the fact that it included parts that we support.”
The State Department has publicly condemned the ongoing anti-LGBT crackdowns in Egypt and Azerbaijan that have spark outrage around the world.
Tillerson over the summer raised the ongoing crackdown against LGBT Chechens in a letter to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley and State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert have both publicly condemned the crackdown, but Tillerson and Trump has yet to do so.
The State Department this year acknowledged Pride month, the Transgender Day of Remembrance and Intersex Awareness Day. Nauert last month promoted Spirit Day, which is a campaign that seeks to combat bullying.