The Biden administration has reversed a Trump-era ban on U.S. embassies flying LGBTQ Pride flags.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has instructed diplomatic outposts that they are free to fly rainbow flags from their flagpoles once more, after former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo banned the practice.
The Trump administration’s move — which required flags to be flown or hung elsewhere on embassy or consulate grounds — was heavily criticized, given it came during LGBTQ Pride Month.
In reversing that decision, Blinken told the chiefs of mission who run U.S. embassies and consulates that they are free to choose whether or not to fly Pride flags, based on what they deem “appropriate in light of local conditions,” according to a cable from Blinken obtained by Foreign Policy.
“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,” Blinken’s cable said.
The new directive is a “blanket” authorization, allowing diplomatic outposts to fly the Pride flag on or before International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia on May 17.
In practice, it means outposts will not need to seek approval prior to flying the flag, as they would normally. (The Trump administration confirmed their stance on Pride flags by refusing requests from several embassies to fly them.)
The State Department spokesperson issued a statement to Insider confirming the change.
“President Biden believes that America’s strength is found in its diversity. America is stronger, at home and around the world, when it is inclusive,” the spokesperson said.
“Recognizing that each country context is different, U.S. embassies and consulates develop individual plans to raise awareness of violence, human rights abuses, and discrimination targeting LGBTQI+ persons, including appropriate exterior displays.”
In reversing the flag ban, Blinken has followed through on a commitment he made during his confirmation hearing in January.
The longtime aide to President Joe Biden, who previously served as national security advisor during his time as vice president, told senators he would lift the ban on Pride flags at embassies.
He also committed to appointing a special envoy with expertise in dealing with human rights issues that directly impact the LGBTQ community, as well as raising that position to ambassadorial level.
In addition, Blinken said he would “repudiate” the findings of a report issued by the Trump administration’s Commission on Inalienable Human Rights.
Filled with anti-LGBTQ figures, the controversial State Department commission had branded LGBTQ equality a “divisive social and political controversy.”
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