Secretary of State John Kerry this month will appoint a special diplomatic envoy to promote gay rights abroad, according to the State Department.

The decision, first reported in a Boston Globe article last week, mirrors legislation that Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) introduced in their respective chambers of Congress within the past month. Markey sponsored a similar bill last year, but the measure died.

By creating the special envoy, Kerry can bolster U.S. efforts to address discrimination and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities overseas. The appointee will be an openly gay career diplomat, the State Department said in a statement.


Secretary of State John Kerry. (AP/Stefan Wermuth)

In the past, Kerry has advocated for LGBT rights himself. He released a statement last year condemning Uganda’s anti-homosexual legislation, which later became law in that country, and he has worked with groups trying to discourage Eastern European media from portraying gays negatively.

The Ugandan law is one of several that have taken effect around the world in recent years. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed legislation in 2013 banning “homosexual propaganda,” and Nigeria banned same-sex marriage and restricted homosexual behavior, including public displays of affection between gays.

Human rights advocates applauded Kerry’s plan for the special envoy last week. Human Rights First legal counsel Shawn Gaylord called it a “major milestone in the fight for equality worldwide, sending an important message to foreign governments that protecting the rights of LGBT people will remain a key foreign policy priority of the United States well beyond the current administration.”