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Remarks by John Kerry, Secretary of State, at the Welcoming Ceremony of Randy Berry as the First Special Envoy
February 27, 2015

Secretary Kerry: This is a terrific moment to be able to welcome Randy Berry as our first special envoy for human rights of LGBT persons.

So this appointment really couldn’t happen at a more important time. And frankly, everybody being here today and my privilege of actually celebrating this appointment is really a way of sending a compelling message. We have a moral obligation to speak out against the persecution and the marginalization of LGBT persons. And we have a moral obligation to promote societies that are more just, fair, and tolerant. It is the right thing to do. But make no mistake: It’s also a strategic necessity. Greater protection of human rights leads to greater stability, prosperity, tolerance, inclusivity, and it is not a question of occasionally – always this is what happens.

The United States of America remains unwavering in our commitment to advance the human rights of all human beings, and that includes LGBT persons prominently, appropriately, equal to everybody else here at home and around the world.

Now, the stakes could not be higher. In country after country, LGBT communities face discriminatory laws and practices that attack their dignity, undermine their safety, and violate their human rights. And many LGBT people continue to be harassed, arrested, killed simply because of who they are or who they love. That’s unacceptable. And we believe it has to change.

At the same time, we know governments and civil societies in many regions are taking positive steps to advance LGBT rights. And we need to build on and learn from those successes. So this is an important post that Randy is signing up for.

In Randy, we have both a man of principle and a proven consensus builder. He’s a diplomat who knows where he comes from, knows what he stands for, but also, importantly, knows where he’s going and knows the challenges ahead when it comes to promoting and protecting the human rights of LGBT persons.

  • We have to update and build on our roadmap for how the United States should respond to anti-LGBT laws and practices. And I’m proud that the State Department has devoted considerable time and effort to developing a strategy on these issues.
  • While crisis response may be unavoidable, we need to continue our efforts to support governments and civil society activists that are driving the change on the ground. We’re already doing a great deal through our Global Equality Fund. But it’s no secret that the needs remain substantially greater than the resources that are available, and we welcome any and all who are willing to help us fill this gap.
  • We need to double down on our nongovernmental partnerships, and that means working with a diverse range of allies in the faith community, the business community, civil society in order to advocate for tolerance and to promote equality.

And finally, we must fully integrate LGBT rights into our multilateral and bilateral engagement, working with regional organizations and with partners from the global south.

So we have a great deal of work to do, obviously, and a great deal of work that’s going to start right away. I can’t tell you how amazing it is, the distance that we have traveled in a short span of time.

I want to emphasize the fight may not be won, but this is no time to get discouraged. It’s time for every single one of us to remain active and to keep pushing and keep believing that the change that we’ve been able to embrace is really a change that ultimately everybody will as we break down the barriers and really educate and teach people there’s nothing to fear.

It is time to reaffirm, and we do so today with this announcement and appointment, the dignity of all persons, and to say loudly and clearly, no matter who you are and no matter who you love, we stand with you. That’s more than a message. That is a movement that we can ignite, and with our work here together, we will see this movement succeed. We will keep moving. We will keep going forward towards our shared goal of justice and equality for all.

So Randy, as you are surrounded today by family and by friends, I want you to know that you have President Obama’s full confidence, you have my full confidence, and you have the respect and the gratitude of the State Department family. And I look forward to working closely with you and with everybody here and the many people who are committed to this cause in the months and years to come. Let’s stay at it. God bless. And thank you, Randy, for taking on this task.