Metro Weekly

Republicans Force Biden to Sign Pride Flag Ban

Biden agreed to a Republican-backed provision in the spending bill that prevents Pride flags from being flown outside U.S. embassies.

Photo: Thomas Cizauskas, Flickr CC

Pride flags are officially banned from flying above U.S. embassies.

The provision, part of a larger $1.2 trillion bipartisan spending bill to keep the government funded through September 30, was signed into law by President Biden on March 23.

Under the provision, no government funds may be used to fly or display any flag over any State Department facilities, unless that flag is the United States flag, a state or tribal government flag, an official agency flag, the POW/MIA flag, the Hostage and Wrongful Detainee flag, or — as in the case of embassies — the sovereign flag of other countries, reports NBC News

That means flags representing any cause, including the Black Lives Matter flag and LGBTQ Pride flag, are banned from flying on flagpoles outside government buildings. The provision does not ban such flags in other locations, such as office windows or internal building spaces.

According to The Daily Beast, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) touted the embassy Pride flag ban as a victory in an effort to garner more Republican support for the temporary budget bill.

Ultimately, 101 House Republicans voted to concur with a Senate-approved version of the bill, while 112 voted against it. That latter group was joined by 22 Democrats who bucked their own party’s wishes.

The White House had previously urged Congress to pass the spending bill, declaring it a “compromise” in which neither side got exactly what it wanted.

In a statement, a White House spokesperson sought to distance the president from the Pride flag ban he signed, noting that Biden “believes it was inappropriate to abuse the process that was essential to keep the government open by including this policy targeting LGBTQI+ Americans.”

The White House claims it will advocate for the repeal of the provision.

“While it will have no impact on the ability of members of the LGBTQI+ community to serve openly in our embassies or to celebrate Pride,” the spokesperson continued, “the Administration…will continue to work with members of Congress to find an opportunity to repeal it.”

Seeking to shore up expected criticism from the left flank of the Democratic Party, the spokesperson also argued that the White House “was successful in defeating” more than 50 other riders targeting the LGBTQ community.

Among the various riders were provisions to defund the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, to restrict federal funds, including Medicare and Medicaid, from providing coverage for gender-affirming health care treatments, to prohibit insurance coverage for gender-affirming care for transgender members of the U.S. military, and to defund diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.

Other defeated provisions would have banned transgender athletes from female-designated sports teams, allowed student organizations on campuses to discriminate against LGBTQ individuals, banned drag performances in certain contexts, and defunded the office of the U.S. Special Envoy to Advance the Human Rights of LGBTQI+ Persons.

“LGBTQ people — and the country at large — secured a victory this week,” David Stacy, the vice president of government affairs for the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement. “MAGA members of Congress have repeatedly threatened to bog the appropriations process down with their anti-LGBTQ+ poison pills, putting the federal government on the brink of a shutdown in the process.

“But, alongside pro-equality champions in the House and Senate, these dangerous riders that would have had devastating effects on LGBTQ+ people across the country have been rejected. This serves as a critical reminder: the anti-LGBTQ+ agenda is and will continue to be a failing political strategy.”

In 2019, the Trump administration approved a policy requiring U.S. embassies wishing to display Pride flags on their flagpoles to submit a special request to do so, and then summarily rejected all requests.

Two years later, the Biden administration reversed that policy, enabling embassies to fly Pride flags on their official flagpoles. 

Beyond the federal level, several state or local governments have attempted to ban the Pride flag, casting it as a symbol of “wokeness” or as a “divisive” political cause that grants special recognition to a certain group of people.

Some right-wing pundits have sought to cast the members of the LGBTQ community — and any show of support for them — as support for “grooming” or indoctrinating youth, arguing that the flag and symbols like it only encourage youth to begin identifying as LGBTQ themselves.

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