Metro Weekly

Pentagon maintains Trump’s ban on Pride flags at military bases

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin refused to make an exception to the flag ban for Pride Month, with the Pentagon citing "challenges"

pride, pentagon, flag, ban, biden
Photo: Jasmin Sessler / Unsplash

The Pentagon will keep a Trump-era ban on Pride flags being flown at military bases, despite President Joe Biden pledging to reverse it.

The ban was enacted last year by former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, as part of a wider ban intended to prevent Confederate flags from being flown without specifically mentioning them. Esper decreed that only the American flag, U.S. state and territory flags, and military flags would be allowed to be flown.

At the time, the decision was branded “wrongheaded” and “outrageous” by LGBTQ military organizations and politicians, with then-presidential candidate Biden saying he would reverse the policy should he become president.

“Banning the Confederate flag from military installations was long overdue,” Biden tweeted. “Banning the LGBTQ Pride flag — the very symbol of diversity and inclusion — is undeniably wrong. The Pentagon should ensure it is authorized, or as President, I will.”

However, in a statement last week, John F. Kirby, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs and a retired Navy Rear Admiral, said that after “some careful consideration…there won’t be an exception made this month for the Pride flag.”

Kirby said the decision, by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin, was made to avoid “other challenges” and was specifically in regard to Pride Month, and not an “official” policy review. 

“Knowing that the month of June was approaching, we wanted to do due diligence and take a look at the old policy and see if we felt it was still applicable,” Kirby said. 

“This in no way reflects any lack of respect or admiration for people that [are from] the LGBTQ+ community, the personnel in and out of uniform who serve in this department,” Kirby added. “We are proud of them.”

Jennifer Dane, CEO of the Modern Military Association of America, told CNN, “It’s another statement that our service isn’t as important as everyone else’s. It’s a small thing that matters especially during Pride month.”

The White House has yet to comment on the decision.

The Pentagon’s decision to maintain the ban is something of a head-scratcher, given it was made mere days after Biden issued a proclamation recognizing June as Pride Month, and given how many of the Trump administration’s anti-LGBTQ policies Biden’s administration has already overturned — including reversing the ban on transgender people serving openly in the military.

The decision also stands in contrast to Secretary of State Antony Blinken reversing the Trump administration’s ban on Pride flags being flown on U.S. embassies.

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