Jessica Stern, who has been executive director of OutRight Action International since 2012 and with the organization for 11 years total, will be the next U.S. envoy for global LGBTQ+ rights.
President Joe Biden announced Stern’s appointment Friday. The position was created during President Barack Obama’s administration, in which it was filled by Randy Berry, but it was vacant under Donald Trump. The official title is U.S. special envoy to advance the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons, and the job is part of the State Department. Secretary of State Antony Blinken had promised at his confirmation hearing that the post would be filled, calling it “a matter, I think, of some real urgency.”
“The Special Envoy will play a vital role in leading implementation of the Presidential Memorandum on Advancing the Human Rights of LGBTQI+ Persons Around the World,” according to a White House press release. “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 organizations, corporations and international organizations to uphold dignity and equality for all.”
“Serving as OutRight’s executive director has been the honor of a lifetime,” Stern said in an OutRight press release. “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.”
Stern “oversaw a period of extraordinary growth for OutRight,” the release notes. She “expanded the organization to establish a permanent presence at the United Nations, a Global Research Program, an Arabic Media Project, a Corporate Engagement Program, and a Caribbean Program. Moreover, Stern created a training and advocacy program for LGBTIQ activists, Advocacy Week, that has become a model used around the world,” it continues.
OutRight’s budget grew by 340 percent during her tenure, and the organization launched a dozen LGBTQ+ groups around the word, trained more than 1,000 activists, issued reports on topics including conversion therapy and COVID-19’s impact on the LGBTQ+ population, and distributed millions of dollars in grants, some of which created the world’s largest LGBTQ+ COVID relief fund.
“The United States is emerging from four years of unreliable foreign policy, distortions of international human rights standards, and backs turned on LGBTIQ people domestically,” Jenny Pizer, cochair of OutRight’s board of directors, said in the group’s release. “In such times, LGBTIQ communities in the United States and around the world need and deserve a clear-eyed human rights champion to galvanize a wise reemergence of the U.S. government insisting on full human rights for LGBTIQ people everywhere. Jessica is that person. No one works with deeper commitment, greater integrity, or more skillful strategic vision on behalf of our global LGBTIQ family. We who know Jessica’s talents best know what an immense positive impact she can have. This is an exciting new day for our global movement.”
The Council for Global Equality also praised Stern’s appointment. “We could not imagine a better choice to lead President Biden’s vision for equality and human rights abroad,” the group said in a blog post.