A State Department spokesperson said yesterday that Randall Berry, the Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons, will keep his job in the Trump Administration.
The move angered Christian conservative groups who have been calling on Donald Trump to fire Berry, accusing his office of “entrench[ing] the LGBTI agenda.”
In December, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council said, “The incoming administration needs to make clear that these liberal policies will be reversed and the ‘activists’ within the State Department promoting them will be ferreted out.”
Queer organizations expressed surprise at Trump retaining Berry. Ross Murray of GLAAD told Foreign Policy, “This is really surprising to me. 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.”
The job of the LGBTI Special Envoy, according to Berry, focused on the “twin issues” of violence and discrimination. After meeting with the Vatican last year, he told Time, “We were not there to talk about issues of civil unions or same-sex marriage, for example, because that is not part of our policy. That is not part of the conversation we were interested in engaging in, nor do I think were they.”
That formulation angered Christian conservatives who believe that homophobic and transphobic discrimination is morally justified and do not want it compared to violence.
Berry is a career Foreign Service Officer and was appointed as Special Envoy in 2015 by President Obama. During his tenure, he has called Russia’s and Nigeria’s bans on pro-gay speech “draconian” and has argued that Uganda’s “kill the gays” law is wasting limited police resources.
About whether promoting LGBTI tolerance is colonialism, Berry told USA Today that such criticism assume that “members of the LGBT community should be discriminated against, should be arrested, detained, subjected to torture and harassment, and should be in some countries executed.”