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U.S. Appoints First-Ever Special Envoy For LGBT Rights

A protester waves an American flag and a rainbow flag in support of gay marriage in Miami in 2014. Secretary of State John Kerry announced Tuesday the appointment of a special envoy for the human rights of LGBT persons.

For the first time ever, the United States has appointed a Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBT Persons.

In a statement, Secretary of State John Kerry said Randy Berry's job will be to "reaffirm the universal human rights of all persons, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity."

Human Rights Campaign praised the move.

"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," HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement. "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."

The Washington Post reports that the idea for a special envoy for LGBT rights was first proposed by Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.).

The paper reported:

"By creating the special envoy, Kerry can bolster U.S. efforts to address discrimination and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities overseas. The appointee will be an openly gay career diplomat, the State Department said in a statement.

"In the past, Kerry has advocated for LGBT rights himself. He released astatement last year condemning Uganda's anti-homosexual legislation, which later became law in that country, and he has worked with groups trying to discourage Eastern European media from portraying gays negatively.

"The Ugandan law is one of several that have taken effect around the world in recent years. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed legislation in 2013 banning "homosexual propaganda," and Nigeria banned same-sex marriage and restricted homosexual behavior, including public displays of affection between gays."

Kerry's predecessor, Hillary Clinton, had also moved the State Department in this direction. If you remember back in 2011 Clinton announced her department would now weigh how a country treated its gay and lesbian citizens when making foreign aid decisions.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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