State Department allowing U.S. embassies to fly LGBT 'Pride' flags

Pride flag embassy U.S. embassy in Moscow displays LGBT "Pride" flag. Embassies will be allowed to fly the rainbow flag on the same flagpole as the U.S. flag./ hodim/Shutterstock

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is allowing U.S. diplomatic posts around the world to fly the LGBT “Pride” flag on the same flagpole as the U.S. flag during “Pride season.”

In a cable first reported by Foreign Policy magazine on April 22, Blinken granted U.S. diplomatic outposts “blanket written authorization ... to display the Pride flag on the external-facing flagpole, for the duration of the 2021 Pride season.”

The authorization was given to fly the flag before May 17, which is observed as the international day against homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia, Foreign Policy reported. June, during which embassies can also fly the “Pride” flag on the external flagpole, is celebrated as “Pride” month by people identifying as LGBT.

In 2019, U.S. embassies were reportedly prohibited from flying the “Pride” flag on embassy flagpoles, and had to obtain permission to do so. They were allowed to display the flag inside buildings. In his confirmation hearing in January, Blinken had promised to change that policy.

Earlier this week, the White House said that President Joe Biden has used “the bully pulpit” to promote “transgender rights.”

At last week’s address to a joint session of Congress, President Biden had told “transgender Americans” that “your President has your back.” When on May 4 asked how Biden might act on that promise in the future, White House press secretary Jen Psaki responded that he has already acted on it.

“He's also used the power of the bully pulpit in his presidency to convey that transgender rights are human rights,” Psaki said, noting that Biden also “has signed executive orders.”

In January, Biden signed an executive order interpreting sex discrimination to include sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination. He said his administration’s “policy” would be to extend federal civil rights protections to these two classes.

Legal experts said the order was far-reaching and would affect the privacy of single-sex spaces such as women’s locker rooms and shelters, and could result in legal action against religious Americans who oppose the redefinition of marriage and transgender ideology.

Psaki added that Biden “expects” this policy in his order to be put into practice by his administration, “ensuring that transgender youth have the opportunity to play sports, and to be treated equally in states across the country.”

Blinken’s cable on “Pride” flags also advised diplomatic posts in certain countries to avoid flying the rainbow flag if doing so would create a backlash.

“Posts should support efforts to repeal [criminalization] legislation, while ensuring that ‘do no harm’ remains our overarching principle so U.S. efforts do not inadvertently result in backlash or further marginalization of the LGBTQI+ community,” the cable read.

At his confirmation hearing in January, Blinken also said that appointing a top diplomatic official on LGBT issues, the LGBTI Special Envoy, is “a matter, I think, of some real urgency.” The position currently remains vacant.

On May 4, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that Biden’s picks for ambassador roles should represent the whole country, including people identifying as LGBTQ.

She noted that “the President looks to ensuring that the people representing him -- not just in the United States, but around the world -- represent the diversity of the country, and that certainly includes people who are LGBTQ, members of the transgender community.” 

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