The Obama administration on Monday made Randy Berry the country’s first global envoy for gay rights, a position the administration previously indicated would go to an openly gay foreign service member. The State Department said Berry would push to end laws in dozens of countries around the world that criminalize same-sex relationships.

Berry’s appointment was the latest move by the White House to make anti-discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people (LGBT) an important issue, according to the Associated Press. ‘‘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,’’ Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement.

Today, there are over 76 countries where being gay remains a criminal offense. Globally, hate crimes against members of the LGBT community have been on the rise, according to the United Nations.

Berry has been a long-time foreign service officer whose posts have included Bangladesh, Egypt, Uganda and South Africa. He is currently the U.S. consul general in the Netherlands.

Gay rights advocates applauded Berry’s role, saying the move sends the message that the U.S. has taken the lead in promoting LGBT rights globally. “At a moment when many LGBT people around the world are facing persecution and daily violence, this unprecedented appointment shows a historic commitment to the principle that LGBT rights are human rights,” Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said in a statement. “President Obama and Secretary Kerry have shown tremendous leadership in championing the rights of LGBT people abroad. Now, working closely with this new envoy, we’ve got to work harder than ever to create new allies, push back on human rights violators, and support the brave leaders and organizations that fight for LGBT rights around the world."