New US envoy for LGBTQ rights sees cause for hope and concern

She praised Biden for deciding to strengthen transgender rights, including lifting a Trump administration ban that barred trans people from joining the military. And she praised the groundbreaking appointments of LGBTQ people to important administrative positions – including Pete Buttigieg, who is gay, as secretary of transportation, and Dr Rachel Levine, who is transgender, as assistant secretary for health.

“At the same time, the work in the United States for the safety and security of transgender Americans is far from over,” Stern said. She urged Congress to pass the Equality Act, a bill that would extend federal civil rights protection to LGBTQ people. The bill is blocked in the Senate for lack of Republican support.

“There is no country that got it right,” she said. “We all have work to do to make sure we are free from discrimination and violence. … We are all in the same boat. “

She sees reasons for optimism, even in Africa, where South Africa is the only one of 54 countries to have legalized same-sex marriage.

In Nigeria, for example, she said a recent poll showed 25% of the public opposes discrimination against LGBTQ people – a substantial increase from a few years ago,

“There is no doubt that this is a slower journey for LGBTQI rights wherever conservative religions play a dominant role, but progress is being made,” she said.

“Every day I get an email from a new organization – maybe starting a film festival or an arts festival,” she said. “As long as LGBTQI civil society is strong, it is only a matter of time before we see a change in attitudes and even in law and policy.”

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