US names first envoy for gay rights

US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a media briefing in London on February 21, 2015 (AFP Photo/Neil Hall) (Pool/AFP/File)

Washington (AFP) - In a ground-breaking move the United States on Monday appointed the first US special envoy for gay and lesbian rights in a bid to help eradicate discrimination around the world.

"Defending and promoting the human rights of LGBT persons is at the core of our commitment to advancing human rights globally -– the heart and conscience of our diplomacy," US Secretary of State John Kerry said.

He named Randy Berry, the current consul-general in Amsterdam, as the new envoy, saying he believed Berry would "significantly advance efforts under way to move towards a world free from violence and discrimination" against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

Berry's role will be to help coordinate US strategy on rights for gay people, as well as to highlight such issues around the world.

In some 75 countries, many of them in Africa, consensual same-sex activity is banned.

"Too often, in too many countries, LGBT persons are threatened, jailed, and prosecuted because of who they are or who they love," Kerry said in a statement.

"Too many governments have proposed or enacted laws that aim to curb freedom of expression, association, religion, and peaceful protest."

But he highlighted that many nations were beginning to recognize gay rights "so while this fight is not yet won, this is no time to get discouraged. It's time to stay active."

"It's time to assert the equality and dignity of all persons, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity," Kerry added.