On Monday, a State Department spokesperson announced that Randy Berry, the Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons, will continue “in his role under the current administration,” leaving casual readers wondering what the hell a Special Envoy does or whether this means that Trump is secretly pro-LGBTQ.
First, to address that latter question, hahahahaha, no. Trump is not secretly pro-LGBTQ. Not only has he installed the most anti-LGBTQ cabinet ever but he has also promised to sign a First Amendment Defense Act that would legalize discrimination against LGBTQ people nationwide. His administration has also been working on an anti-LGBTQ executive order and his Justice Department is already busy rolling back public school accommodations for transgender students.
But back to the Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons, it’s a position in the U.S. Department of State whose job it is to “coordinate the State Department’s internal policies on LGBT employees and the department’s programs and policies regarding the rights of LGBT people in other countries, by working with governments, civil society and the business community,” according to USA Today.
Back when the Obama Administration created the position on April 13, 2015, the then-U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called it a “strategic necessity” for creating stability and prosperity amid anti-LGBTQ tensions in Middle Eastern and African countries. That might be a clue as to why Trump is keeping him—LGBTQ Rights abroad are good business. It could also just be a ploy to keep LGBTQ activists off of Trump’s back until his next moves on LGBTQ rights.
Berry himself is openly gay (he’s married to Pravesh Singh); speaks English, Spanish and Arabic; and has held various posts in the Bangladesh, Egypt, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa and Uganda. In addition to serving as the Special Envoy, Berry also serves as assistant secretary to the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, “a position that has influence over U.S. policies at the United Nations,” says Foreign Policy.
While Gays and Lesbian Allied Against Defamation (GLAAD) have cheered Trump’s decision to keep Berry, homophobic hate group leader Tony Perkins wants Berry dismissed, which is a good indicator that Berry symbolic, if not literal, power. However, we won’t know Berry’s fate until Trump’s LGBTQ agenda becomes more clear.