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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

In Surprise Move, Obama’s LGBT State Department Envoy to Continue in Role

From: Towleroad
A State Department spokesman has confirmed that the Obama-appointed top official for LGBT issues abroad will apparently retain his post under the Trump administration.

Randy Berry, the Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons, was the first to serve in the position created in April 2015, and will “continue in his role in the current administration.” Tasked with the promotion of LGBT rights abroad, he was also further appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor by Obama earlier this year upon the conclusion of his presidency.

A gay man himself, Berry carried out a high-profile visit with the Vatican in his capacity as a representative of American foreign interests, as well as missions to trouble spots prone to anti-LGBT repression such as Uganda. His appointment served as a powerful symbol of the Obama administration’s focus on promoting the human rights and dignity of LGBT individuals worldwide. It is no surprise that conservative religious groups such as the Family Research Council complained about this shift in State Department priorities and urged Trump to abandon it, even implausibly painting incoming Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as “pro-gay” and therefore unlikely to carry out this policy reversal or a purge of LGBT-friendly diplomats at Foggy Bottom, which yet remains to be seen.

While the spokesman did not elaborate on the thinking behind the personnel decision, it does seem notable given that other ideologically-opposed posts such as the Special Envoy for Climate Change were vacated and are likely to stand empty for the foreseeable future. However, as with the draft anti-LGBT executive order left on hold for now, advocacy groups still remain vigilant that the other shoe may yet drop:

“This is really surprising to me,” Ross Murray, the director of programs at GLAAD, a pro-LGBT group, told [Foreign Policy magazine]. “I don’t think I can applaud it until I see what his mandate becomes in this administration.”
“But Berry has been really effective in that job,” he said.

Observers in both the foreign policy and LGBT communities must now wait to see if Berry will be allowed to maintain this effectiveness in his portfolio.

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