A U.S Special Envoy for LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex) rights has embarked on a five-week tour to 15 countries to promote homosexual rights. Meanwhile, the Obama administration, which created the post — the first of its kind in U.S history — has yet to appoint a Special Envoy for persecuted religious minorities, despite having signed that post into law last August.
Having past served as consul general in the Netherlands, Special Envoy Randy Berry's trip will focus on persuading countries, usually poor, who look on homosexuality with a less than favorable eye to include "protections for homosexuals in their constitutions."
At the announcement of Berry's appointment back in February of this year, Secretary of State John Kerry outlined the Special Envoy's agenda as a defender and promoter of "human rights of LGBT persons," which stands "at the core of our commitment to advancing human rights globally — the heart and conscience of our diplomacy":
That's why we're working to overturn laws that criminalize consensual same-sex conduct in countries around the world. It's why we're building our capacity to respond rapidly to violence against LGBT persons, and it's why we're working with governments, civil society and the private sector through the Global Equality Fund to support programs advancing the human rights of LGBT persons worldwide.
Speaking before a panel of gay rights activists last week at the U.S. Institute of Peace, Berry said that the "unique opportunity" to promote LGBT rights stems from the array of civil unrest seen around the world, which allows room for constitutional change.
"Constitutional change has provided a unique opportunity for groups to mobilize for their members' rights and for recognition," Berry said.
Berry did not mention that the majority of victims of that civil unrest, primarily in the Middle East, have been Christians.
"Transitional periods allow a country to redefine its identity in a way," he said. "And since many of these transitions occur after some form of conflict or denial of benefits of citizenship to one or more parties, the rhetoric of equality is often a central feature of discussions during the drafting."
He also added that acceptance of homosexuality "creates a more durable, healthier nation." Acceptance and flourishing of religion did not make the cut.
At the same event, material distributed said,
While only a few countries now protect LGBTI rights in their constitutions, the inclusion of those protections increasingly has become an indicator of the strength and consolidation of Democracy, and constitution-building processes in various countries have opened a social and political space of tolerance and equality within which gender minorities are continuing to claim their rights.
Regarding persecuted religious minorities abroad, the Obama administration hasn't shown nearly the same degree of dedication. Despite having signed into law a Special Envoy for Persecuted Religious Minorities last August, he still has not appointed someone to the post, which serves as no surprise considering his administration initially opposed the legislation, calling it "unnecessary and duplicative." He only signed the measure after intense lobbying and petitioning on behalf of multiple religious leaders here in the United States.
Berry has not announced which countries he will be visiting during his tour.