The White House announced that President Joe Biden (D) is appointing a U.S. Special Envoy to Advance the Human Rights of LGBTQI+ Persons today. Jessica Stern, who was until now the Executive Director of OutRight Action International, will step into the role abandoned by the Trump administration and left vacant for nearly four years.
“At a time when the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons are increasingly threatened in all regions of the world, the Special Envoy will bring together like-minded governments, civil society organizations, corporations and international organizations to uphold dignity and equality for all,” the White House said in a statement.
Stern’s appointment follows through on a pledge from Secretary of State Antony Blinken made during his confirmation hearings that once in office, he would put someone in the position.
Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January that he would enact policies that will allow American embassies to support and protect LGBTQ rights around the world by flying the rainbow flag. He followed through with that pledge, and now his office has fulfilled a second.
The Special Envoy position is under the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor within the State Department. It was created by then-Secretary of State John Kerry in the Obama administration in 2015. Randy W. Berry was the first, and only until now, person to take the position.
Berry was one of the few Obama-era high ranking officials to remain in the Trump administration that succeeded Obama’s in 2017, and the Trump State Department surprised many by keeping the office after going out of its way to vacate others and close them or leave them unfilled. When Berry was appointed to his current position as the Ambassador to Nepal in November 2017, though, there was not a replacement made to his Special Envoy office.
Now Stern will be beside President Biden today as he signs H.R. 49, or the act “to designate the National Pulse Memorial,” into law. Biden will also deliver remarks denouncing the wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation being introduced or passed across the country.
In addition to Stern, the President will be alongside first lady Jill Biden, Pulse survivors of the shooting, members of Florida’s congressional delegation, and those in the Congressional Equality Caucus. He’ll then deliver remarks alongside Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg (D), the first out person appointed to a Cabinet position, from the East Room.
According to CNN, Stern supporting legal organizations and non-profits for LGBTQ organizations around the world, and often worked with different offices in the United Nations (UN).
“It is with a mixture of emotions that OutRight Action International announces the forthcoming departure of its executive director,” OutRight shared in a statement.
“While OutRight laments Stern’s departure, it celebrates the reestablishment of the role of Special Envoy and the Biden Administration’s decision to appoint a globally recognized expert in the human rights of LGBTIQ people to this important position.”
Stern said in the organization’s statement, “Serving as OutRight’s executive director has been the honor of a lifetime. I can think of no organization that works with more integrity, more skillful staff, more motivated board members, more valued partners, or greater impact. After 11 years with OutRight, leaving will be bittersweet, but I know that the organization could not be stronger.”