June 11, 2019 at 9:57 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
50 House Dems urge State Dept. to reverse ban on Pride flags

Rep. Grace Meng is leading House Democrats in opposing to the State Department ban on Pride flags. (Photo by Thomas Altfather Good via Wikimedia Commons)

A group of 50 House Democrats led by Rep. Grace Weng (D-N.Y.) are calling on the State Department to reverse its policy against flying the Pride flag at U.S. embassies.

In a letter dated June 11 to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, House Democrats say in the letter the flying of the Pride flag at U.S. embassies is more than just a symbolic gesture because “in too many countries around the world, LGBT individuals are systematically discriminated against, and receive no protection from law enforcement.”

“To bar this flag from U.S. embassies is to condone the discriminatory policies of many countries around the world,” the lawmakers write. “In 2018, all requests for permission to display rainbow Pride flags were granted. In 2019, all requests for permission have been denied. This sharp pivot in the implementation of this policy is concerning and contradicts the diplomatic corps’ work to support LGBT rights overseas.”

Meng, a vice chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus, said in a statement the policy “is deeply discomforting and sends the wrong message to LGBT Americans about our moral compass.”

“Simple acts of solidarity, such as flying the Pride flag, demonstrate our resolve to be a beacon of hope for those who reside in hostile environments for LGBT individuals,” Weng said. “We shouldn’t backtrack on LGBT rights; we should march forward and pursue efforts that strengthen LGBT rights at home and abroad.”

News broke over the weekend U.S. embassies were barred from flying the Pride flag on their official flagpoles — a policy standing in contrast to President Trump’s tweet just one week before recognizing Pride Month and a global initiative to decriminalize homosexuality.

The flying of Pride flags at U.S. embassies had become common as a sign of U.S. solidarity with the LGBT community overseas. Embassies had been free to display the Pride flag on their official flagpoles during the Obama administration and the first two years of the Trump administration.

The State Department this week defended the policy, asserting Pompeo has the position that as it relates to the flagpole that only the American flag should be flown there.” Although Trump hasn’t publicly commented on the ban, Vice President Mike Pence has said he supports it.

The Washington Blade has placed a request in with the State Department seeking comment on the letter.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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