FILE - Randy Berry
FILE - Randy Berry

The United States has for the first time named an international envoy for gay rights to help fight violence and discrimination around the world.

The State Department named Randy Berry to the post. He is a longtime foreign service officer and currently the consul general to the Netherlands.

In a statement Monday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said, "defending and promoting the human rights of LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] persons is at the core of our commitment to advancing human rights globally - the heart and conscience of our diplomacy."

He said a specific priority for Berry will be to work to overturn laws that criminalize consensual same-sex conduct in more than 75 countries around the world.

"Too often, in too many countries, LGBT persons are threatened, jailed and prosecuted because of who they are or who they love. Too many governments have proposed or enacted laws that aim to curb freedom of expression, association, religion and peaceful protest," Kerry said.

He said Berry has served at U.S. posts across the world, including Nepal, New Zealand, Uganda, Bangladesh, Egypt and South Africa. He described him as a "motivator" and "leader," and said "most importantly for this effort, he's got vision."

The Obama administration has made the protection of gay rights part of its effort to promote human rights around the world.