Washington D.C., Jan 22, 2021 / 02:45 pm (CNA).- President Joe Biden’s nominee for Secretary of State pledged to appoint an LGBTI envoy at the agency, and says he will permit embassies to fly the “Pride” flag if confirmed.
Antony Blinken, Biden’s nominee to lead the U.S. State Department, was asked about filing the LGBTI Special Envoy position at the agency during his confirmation hearing before members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, Jan. 19.
Filling the position is “a matter, I think, of some real urgency,” said Blinken, who served as deputy secretary of state during the Obama administration.
The administration created the special envoy position in 2015 to help counter violence against persons identifying as LGBTI around the world, as well as helping overturn laws criminalizing same-sex conduct.
“We’ve seen violence directed against LGBTQI people around the world increase,” said Blinken on Tuesday. “We’ve seen, I believe, the highest number of murders of transgender people, particularly women of color, that we’ve seen ever.”
However, when the position was first created, some religious freedom advocates warned that the administration’s objective could be “more revolutionary” than simply countering violence abroad. They told CNA that the agency could pressure developing countries to redefine marriage and promote transgender ideology.
The Trump administration did not fill the position.
Blinken said on Tuesday that he believed that the United States is “playing the role that it should be playing in standing up for and defending the rights of LGBTQI people is something that the Department (of State) is going to take on, and take on immediately.”
Blinken further pledged to “repudiate” the 2020 Commission on Unalienable Rights, established in 2019 by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and which produced a report on human rights in 2020.
The report stated “Foremost among the unalienable rights that government is established to secure, from the founders’ point of view, are property rights and religious liberty.”
In 2019, it was reported that U.S. embassies were prohibited from flying the LGBT “Pride” flag during the month of June, which is traditionally known as “Pride Month.”
Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) asked Blinken if he would change this policy as secretary of state. Blinken said that the U.S. embassies would be permitted to fly the flag.