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Jessica Stern

U.S. Special Envoy To Advance The Human Rights Of LGBTQI+ Persons

Jessica Stern has championed LGBTQIA+ rights at the domestic and international levels as executive director of OutRight Action International and has called out the Trump administration’s Commission on Unalienable Rights for its anti-abortion stance and unequal view of human rights. Throughout her career, Stern has fought for reproductive, LGBTQIA+ rights and human rights in various advocacy organizations.

Jessica Stern Was Announced As The U.S. Special Envoy To Advance The Human Rights Of LGBTQI+ Persons On June 25, 2021

President Biden Announced Jessica Stern As The U.S. Special Envoy To Advance The Human Rights Of LGBTQI+ Persons In June 2021. “Today, ahead of his remarks at the White House for Pride Month, President Joe Biden announced that he will appoint Jessica Stern to be the U.S. Special Envoy to Advance the Human Rights of LGBTQI+ Persons at the Department of State—a role critical to ensuring that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons around the world.” [The White House, 6/25/21]


As Director Of OutRight Action International, Stern Has Championed LGBTQIA+ Rights At Home And Abroad

Stern Has Championed LGBTQIA+ Rights At Home And Abroad

Since 2012, Stern Has Served As Executive Director Of OutRight Action International And Has Spearheaded Initiatives To Support LGBTQIA+ Rights Around The World. “Stern, who became executive director in 2012, oversaw a period of extraordinary growth for OutRight … Stern’s vision was for OutRight to help LGBTIQ movements accelerate their progress by focusing on research, resourcing, and advocacy. Guided by a conviction that LGBTIQ movements need research to advocate for law and policy change, Stern led OutRight’s publication of landmark global reports documenting the impact of COVID-19 on LGBTIQ people and exposing the global reach of so-called ‘conversion therapy’—practices aiming to change sexual orientation or gender identity which are professionally repudiated as futile and damaging. Stern also focused on the under-resourcing of LGBTIQ movements and guided OutRight to create new resources for LGBTIQ activists, organizations, and allies on the frontlines. During her tenure, OutRight helped launch a dozen LGBTIQ organizations; trained over 1,000 LGBTIQ activists; and distributed millions of dollars in grants to LGBTIQ organizations, including creating the largest global LGBTIQ COVID-19 relief fund in the world, which has raised more than $4M to support LGBTIQ communities in 80 countries.” [OutRight Action International, 6/25/21]

Stern Led The Organization’s Engagement With The United Nations, Including The Establishment Of The Independent Expert On Sexual Orientation And Gender Identity. “Under Stern’s leadership, OutRight expanded the organization’s impact as an advocacy organization. OutRight became a watchdog and advocate at the UN by obtaining official accreditation (ECOSOC status), advocating to establish the UN Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, and fighting for inclusive language in numerous UN resolutions and documents, among other successes impacting the daily lives of LGBTIQ people.” [OutRight Action International, 6/25/21]

Stern Has Condemned The Epidemic Of Violence Against Trans Women Of Color And Restrictions On Sports Participation And Gender-Affirming Care For Trans Youth. “In the United States, Stern’s admiration for President Joe Biden’s moves supporting LGBTQ rights is offset by her dismay at other developments. These include persisting violence against transgender women of color and a wave of legislation in Republican-governed states seeking to limit sports participation and medical options for trans youth … ‘At the same time, the work in the U.S. for the safety and security of transgender Americans is far from complete,’ said Stern.” [Associated Press, 7/3/21]

Stern Criticized The Dehumanizing Effect Of Colonial-Era Bans Against Homosexuality In Former British Territories. “Till today, colonial-era laws that ban homosexuality continue to exist in former British territories including parts of Africa and Oceania. But it is in Asia where they have had a significantly widespread impact. This is the region where, before India legalised homosexual sex in 2018, at least one billion people lived with anti-LGBTQ legislation … This has a ‘de-humanising effect’ on an LGBTQ person, and can seriously impact their access to education and career opportunities as well as increase their risk of poverty and physical violence, said Jessica Stern, executive director of LGBTQ rights group OutRight International. ‘If you’re a walking criminal, you’re living with a burden every day. Whether you internalise it or not, it affects you and everyone who loves you,’ she told the BBC.” [BBC, 6/29/21]

Stern Has Taught A Course On LGBTQI Rights And Public Policy At The Columbia School Of International And Public Affairs. “In my spare time, I teach a spring course at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs on LGBTIQ rights in law and public policy around the world. And if I could say one thing about the value of this course is that it changes people’s lives. It makes LGBTIQ students feel and be seen. And it makes straight allies feel more equipped to bring a queer analysis into whatever work they are most passionate about and they are most focused on. It actually helps people govern better … And I can’t think of a better outcome from any class than to actually have an impact on law and policy.” [Columbia University YouTube, 6/6/19]


Stern Has Signaled Support For Reproductive And Co-Equal Human Rights

Stern Condemned The Trump Administration’s Anti-Abortion Foreign Policy Through The Commission On Unalienable Rights

Stern Co-Authored An Article Condemning Mike Pompeo’s Commission On Unalienable Rights And The Trump Administration’s Anti-Abortion Policies. “We expect [the Commission will] start with foreign policy, taking a page from a tried-and-true playbook. For decades, what American ultra-conservatives couldn’t get away with at home, they’ve exported abroad—through such heinous policies as the so-called Global Gag Rule, and the Helms Amendment, for instance, which have limited women’s access to safe abortion services around the world. And once these right-wing policies are established—and legitimated—in foreign policy, they’re brought home to roost. Recently, a US court of appeals ruled that Trump’s Domestic Gag Rule can go into effect (further limiting abortion access here as well).” [openDemocracy, 7/22/19]

Stern Called The Commission A “Frontal Assault” And “Concerted Attack” On Reproductive Rights And LGBTIQ People. “Their frontal assault is against abortion and the rights of LGBTIQ people, but that’s only their opening salvo. Unless you are part of the narrow demographic of rich, white men deemed to have rights in 1776, they’re coming for you too. In fact, their ideology threatens the vast majority of people—which is one reason it must be justified as ‘natural’ and God-given. The right’s concerted attack on reproductive rights and LGBTIQ people reflects the centrality of gender as a system for asserting the control and domination they seek. They target us because we’re upending that system. But allying feminist and LGBTIQ rights movements is more than a mutual defense pact: it’s a strategy to defeat the right.” [openDemocracy, 7/22/19]

Stern Authored An Opinion Piece Criticizing The “Anti-Gender” Movement’s Push To Restrict Sexual And Reproductive Health. “In recent years, fundamentalist, ‘anti-gender’, movements have grown in strength and number around the world. Often aligned across religious extremist and populist forces, they use human rights language—arguments for religious freedom, individual choice or morality—to restrict sexual and reproductive health, rights and education; to ban rights to abortion; to oppose acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people; and to create a new definition of gender based on biological determinism.” [Openly, 4/15/19]

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