The U.S. State Department has authorized embassies worldwide to display the rainbow pride flag on embassy flagpoles along with the American flag, which reverses the Trump-era policy.
In a State Department cable reviewed by news outlets, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the diplomatic outposts are not required to fly the LGBT pride flag but can decide if it is appropriate to display on the flagpole “in light of local conditions.”
The rainbow pride flag can be displayed before May 17, the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, through the end of June, according to the cable and a State Department official who spoke with the New York Times.
June is officially recognized as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City, which are viewed by many as the beginning of the gay rights movement.
In the cable reported originally by Foreign Policy, State Department officials were told to follow the “do no harm” policy to prevent backlash against the local LGBT population.
“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 was quoted as stating.
Though the flag would be relatively non-controversial in some countries, in many Middle Eastern or North African countries where same-sex relationships are banned, the pride flag could stir up contention.
Franklin Graham, a prominent conservative evangelical leader and president of Samaritan’s Purse, criticized the decision on Facebook. He said just because something is “authorized” does not make it right.
“Why should a flag representing one group of people and a specific agenda be literally raised up above all others and allowed to fly at our embassies and consulates?” Graham, the son of legendary evangelist Billy Graham, wrote.
“The embassies represent the United States of America on foreign soil—only the U.S. flag should be flown. Not the gay pride flag, not the Christian flag, not any other flag.”
“The previous administration had a one-flag rule that the Biden administration has rescinded,” he continued. “Our U.S. flag represents the sacrifice, the honor, the unity, the patriotism—and the blood—that made America great. Pray for our nation and our leaders.”
The Trump administration denied requests from U.S. embassies to display the rainbow flag on the embassy flagpole to celebrate LGBT Pride Month and only allowed the American flag to be flown on the flagpole.
In defense of former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s one-flag rule, former Vice President Mike Pence told NBC News in June 2019 that he and the president believe only the U.S. flag should be displayed on the embassy flagpole.
"We both feel that way very passionately, but when it comes to the American flagpole, and American embassies, and capitals around the world, one American flag flies," Pence proclaimed.
The Trump administration’s State Department reportedly denied requests from U.S. embassies in Brazil, Germany, Israel and Latvia to fly the rainbow pride flag for LGBT Pride Month.
Embassies were still allowed to display the pride flag outside of the embassy under Trump, and some embassies displayed the flag elsewhere.
South Korea, for example, displayed the pride flag on the building instead of the flagpole until embassy officials removed it and a Black Lives Matter banner, the New York Times reported.
During the Obama administration, embassies were allowed to fly the rainbow flag under the American flag on the embassy flagpole.
Blinken pledged to support the LGBT agenda by flying the pride flag at U.S. embassies and reinstating the special envoy for the human rights of LGBTI persons upon being sworn in this January.
The State Department is yet to make a formal announcement regarding this decision.