Kerry establishes LGBT envoy to advocate for rights overseas
WASHINGTON —The Department of State will announce the appointment later this month of a special envoy to advocate for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people overseas, a State Department official told the Globe on Thursday.
The move would preempt a bill sponsored by Massachusetts Senator Edward J. Markey, which called for the creation of an LGBT rights envoy. The bill died in the last session of Congress, but was reintroduced last week by Markey, with an identical version in the House of Representatives sponsored by Democratic Representative Alan S. Lowenthal of California.
The State Department is currently vetting candidates for the position, and will announce its choice by the end of February. The appointee will be a current State Department officer who is openly gay.
“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 in an email to the Globe. “We think of this new legislation as a very helpful vote of confidence, but we wouldn’t want to wait for passage to do something we’ve long thought was the right thing to do and which has been in process.”
If enacted, Markey’s bill would have established the envoy under the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Labor and Human Rights to direct the federal government’s responses to international human rights abuses against LGBT people. The envoy would have also represented the federal government in international discussions of LGBT rights.
Markey hailed Kerry’s action in a statement, saying the envoy “will be a global model for defending LGBT rights around the world.’’
The new job will be an extension of State Department’s recent initiatives to enhance and discuss LGBT rights both at home and abroad. The US in August 2013 began issuing immigrant visas to same-sex couples in August, released the first Department statement to commemorate Transgender Day of Remembrance that November, and condemned Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill in February 2014.
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Correction: Because of a reporting error, an earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Alan Lowenthal’s home state.