White House names Jessica Stern as next US envoy for global LGBTQ rights

Jessica Stern. (Photo courtesy OutRight Action International)

The White House announced June 25 it has named Jessica Stern as the next special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ rights abroad.

Stern for the past 11 years has been the executive director of OutRight Action International, a global LGBTQ advocacy group. The White House in its announcement notes Stern is also an adjunct associate professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

“Serving as OutRight’s executive director has been the honor of a lifetime,” said Stern in an OutRight Action press release that announced her appointment and departure from the organization. “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.”

Then-Secretary of State John Kerry in 2015 announced the position within the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. It had remained vacant since 2017.

President Joe Biden in February signed a memorandum that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ rights abroad. Secretary of State Antony Blinken during his confirmation hearing pledged to make the envoy an ambassador level post, but the White House’s announcement about Stern’s appointment does not refer to her as such.

Stern was also a vocal critic of the previous administration over its LGBTQ rights record, among other issues.

“Another Trump administration would mean more funding for U.S.-based right-wing organizations to spread homophobia and transphobia globally,” Stern told the Washington Blade last October in a statement ahead of the presidential election. “It would mean more opposition to life-saving global institutions that serve LGBTIQ people, like the World Health Organization. It would mean more examples of the U.S. forging coalitions to oppose social justice movements and equal recognition of the family with some of the most conservative countries in the world.”

The Council for Global Equality in a statement congratulated Stern over her appointment.

“The special envoy is a key leadership position at the State Department and Jessica Stern is a respected leader in the global movement for LGBTQI equality,” it said on its blog. “We could not imagine a better choice to lead President Biden’s vision for equality and human rights abroad.”

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