Defense Department Upholds Ban against Flying Pride Flag on Military Bases

POLITICS & POLICY
People wave rainbow flags during the 2018 New York City Pride Parade (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

The Department of Defense (DOD) announced Monday that the pride flag will not be permitted to fly at its military installations, upholding a Trump-era order established last year.

The Pentagon’s decision differs from that of the State Department, which has encouraged embassies in allied nations to fly the pride flag. Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Friday at a news conference that the DOD “will maintain the existing policy from July 2020 regarding the display or depiction of unofficial flags.” He told reporters that “there won’t be an exception made for the Pride flag.”

He added that the move “in no way reflects any lack of respect or admiration for people of the LGBTQ+ community, personnel in and out of uniform who serve in this department.”

“We’re proud of them,” he said.

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Kirby commented that DOD will continue the ban in order to avoid challenges that could potentially come from making an exception to the policy. He said that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will join in Pride Month festivities at the Pentagon this week.

Austin “encourages all commands to likewise find ways to recognize the service and contributions of the LGBTQ+ community in defense of this nation,” Kirby noted in a statement.

In April, Secretary of State Antony Blinken authorized United States embassies and consulates around the world to fly the Pride flag on the same pole as the American flag to signal solidarity with the gay community and a commitment to securing gay rights domestically and internationally. The Blinken directive was supposed to be effective before May 17, the international day against homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia, and through June, which is Pride Month for many nations around the globe, Foreign Policy reported.

The DOD move comes after Representative Nicole Malliotakis (R, N.Y.) proposed legislation, called the Stars and Stripes Act, that would prohibit the Black Lives Matter (BLM) and other “political” flags from flying at United States diplomatic outposts.

She introduced the bill in response to a leaked State Department memo revealing that Blinken had ordered the BLM banner to be displayed at U.S. embassies in remembrance of the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s death.

“The Department supports the use of the term ‘Black Lives Matter’ in messaging content, speeches, and other diplomatic engagements with foreign audiences to advance racial equity and access to justice on May 25 and beyond. We encourage posts to focus on the need to eliminate systemic racism and its continued impact,” the memo said.

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