The position of U.S. Special Envoy to Advance the Human Rights of the LGBTQ community was created by former President Obama in 2015. After a refusal from the Trump administration to appoint a representative, the position has now been filled by Jessica Stern, Adjunct Associate Professor of International and Public Affairs and Executive Director of OutRight Action International. Stern is well qualified and no stranger to the global nuances of LGBTQ politics.
Come September, 2021, this expert activist for gender, sex and sexual orientation rights will be working alongside President Biden to keep homophobic and transphobic legislation out of office. With her background in international studies, Stern has a vested interest in places such as Myanmar and Hungary; closely following the military and political oppression happening in these nations.
In her current position at OutRight, Stern has been instrumental in launching LGBTQ organizations around the world. Stern also participated in the United Nations LGBTI Core Group. This UN program focuses on LGBTQ discrimination and violence, negotiating, raising awareness and discussing the international rights of queer individuals. Stern and her colleagues at OutRight have been extremely vocal about globalizing marriage equality: to date, only 54 countries have legalized same-sex marriage.
Since Marriage Equality is considered by most in the United States to be settled law, she has focused most of her work in recent years on the needs of the trans community. “The work in the U.S. for the safety and security of transgender Americans is far from complete,” Stern says. According to Stern, one of the next steps for the U.S. will be to pass the Equality Act; effectively ending anti-LGBTQ discrimination from businesses, hotels and restaurants.
Stern applauded several of President Biden’s initiatives, such as the acknowledgement of Transgender Day of Visibility and the appointment of LGBTQ-identified Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. Yet, she acknowledges there is still much work to be done. Change must come from within, according to Stern, who says, “As long as LGBTQI civil society is strong, it’s only a matter of time before we see [more] change in attitudes and law and policy.”
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