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Biden appoints special LGBT+ envoy to State Department in position left vacant under Trump

·2-min read
Biden appoints special LGBT+ envoy to State Department in position left vacant under Trump
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Jessica Stern, the executive director of an international LGBT+ human rights group, has been appointed as a special envoy at the US Department of State to promote and protect global LGBT+ rights.

President Joe Biden will formally announce her role as US Special Envoy to Advance the Human Rights of LGBTQI+ Persons – a position left vacant under Donald Trump’s administration – during remarks on 25 June alongside Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to commemorate Pride Month.

“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 organisations, corporations and international organisations to uphold dignity and equality for all,” according to the White House.

Ms Stern currently leads OutRight Action International, which aims to combat human rights violations and abuses against LGBT+ people.

She will be the second person to hold the State Department position, after Barack Obama appointed Randy Berry to the role in 2015. He left the role in 2017, and it remained open for the remainder of Mr Trump’s term.

Before announcing Ms Stern’s appointment, Mr Biden will sign a resolution designating the site of a 2016 mass shooting in Orlando, Florida as the National Pulse Memorial, recognising the murder of 49 people that marked the deadliest attack on LGBT+ people in US history.

The president has urged the Senate to pass the Equality Act, which would expand federal anti-discrimination laws to ban discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation and gender identity.

It passed the House of Representatives in February on a mostly party-line vote, and it is likely to face overwhelming Republican opposition in an evenly divided Senate that has sought to crush Mr Biden’s agenda through current filibuster rules requiring 60 votes to move legislation forward.

The president has reversed many of Mr Trump’s anti-LGBT+ policies, including a ban on transgender people serving in the military, and he has issued an executive order protecting transgender students and threatened sanctions against counties that endanger transgender people.

Ms Stern’s appointment also follows a wave of discriminatory state-level legislation, including at least 250 bills filed in state houses in 2021 that have sought to exclude LGBT+ discussions in classrooms and ban transgender people from medical care, school sports or bathrooms consistent with their gender, among several other measures.

In his remarks on Friday, the president is expected to condemn the legislation as “un-American” and “disguised as bullying.”

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