His job is to promote the human rights of gays and lesbians around the world. When officials at the State Department began mulling the notion of creating a special LGBT envoy, there was some trepidation. A few worried that designating an envoy expressly for the purpose of promoting the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people around the world — an official goal of U.S. diplomacy since 2011 — would stovepipe the issue and lead others at State to neglect it. Others, according to a State employee involved in the process, wondered if including “LGBT” in the title would hurt the envoy’s ability to get meetings with senior officials in countries such as Uganda and Russia, where gays have increasingly come under legal attack.
In February, veteran U.S. diplomat Randy Berry was named to the carefully titled position of America’s “special envoy for the human rights of LGBT persons,” and it’s clear he has no intention of being isolated either at State or by any state.
In an interview with POLITICO, the 50-year-old, openly gay diplomat sketched out an ambitious agenda, one he hopes will mean forging ties with activists, companies and governments everywhere, including in places hostile to people such as himself. Of the thousands of positive messages he’s received so far — he can’t think of a negative one — Berry points out that a big chunk came from the Islamic Republic of Iran, whose former president insisted the country had no gays. Surely, he argues, even the most ardent opponents of gays wouldn’t object to having a discussion on whether people in the LGBT community deserve basic human rights. MORE