Appointed by President Biden, Jessica Stern serves as the Special Envoy to Advance the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex (LGBTQI+) Persons. Special Envoy Stern leads U.S. efforts to protect LGBTQI+ persons globally from violence and discrimination.
Prior to joining the Department of State, Stern led Outright International, a global LGBTQI+ human rights organization, as its Executive Director for ten years. At Outright, Stern helped the organization secure observer status at the United Nations, release human rights reports annually, built the world’s largest COVID LGBTQI+ grant-making program, and quintupled the budget. Before Outright, Stern was a researcher and advocate at Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the Center for Constitutional Rights.
Stern has a long history of multilateral engagement. She was a founding member of the UN LGBTI Core Group and of its secretariat. Stern successfully campaigned for the first UN General Assembly resolution to include gender identity and for successive Human Rights Council resolutions on sexual orientation and gender identity, leading to the establishment of the Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. Stern provided the first LGBTQI+ rights expert testimony in a UN Security Council Arria. Stern has frequently served as an advisor to UN mechanisms, including as a founding member of the UNWomen LGBTI Reference Group.
Stern is a published author, is frequently cited in the media, and is the recipient of numerous honors, including from Crain’s New York Business, Gay City News, and the Metropolitan Community Church. As an adjunct associate professor, Special Envoy Stern taught the first LGBTQI+ rights course at Columbia University’s School of International & Public Affairs. Special Envoy Stern has lived in Mexico, the United Kingdom, and Uruguay.