Despite a renewed focus on diversity and inclusion in the White House and across Washington D.C. following the election of President Biden, the increased level of acceptance hasn’t permeated all aspects of government life. In a disappointing new statement from the Pentagon, the United States Department of Defense has ruled that LGBTQ Pride flags will continue to be prohibited on military bases for the foreseeable future.
Jake Lubbehusen of NBC News reported on the Pentagon statement, which said, “Pride flags will remain banned from U.S. military installations, even during Pride Month.”
The decision carries over a policy former Defense Secretary Mark Esper established last July in the waning days of the Trump administration.
In a news briefing on Friday, June 4, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said the military “will maintain the existing policy from July 2020 regarding the display or depiction of unofficial flags,” adding that “there won’t be an exception this month for the Pride flag.”
Kirby was also quick to defend the policy, saying, “This decision was not made lightly, nor does it in any way reflect on the respect and admiration we feel for all our LGBTQ+ personnel.”
“[The policy] in no way reflects any lack of respect or admiration for people of the LGBTQ+ community, personnel in and out of uniform who serve in this department,” Kirby said. “We’re proud of them.”
According to Kirby, instead of being a sign of disrespect to LGBTQ individuals, the decision was made to “avoid challenges that could arise from making an exception to the policy.”
To drive home his point, Kirby noted that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will participate in Pride Month festivities at the Pentagon and said that Austin “encourages all commands to likewise find ways to recognize the service and contributions of the LGBTQ+ community in defense of this nation.”
During Esper’s time at the Pentagon, he famously took direction from then-President Trump and enacted a policy banning LGBTQ flags from being flown at military bases. U.S. state and territory flags, military service flags, prisoners of war, missing-in-action flags, as well as Confederate flags were also allowed under his new rule.
“The Modern Military Association of America, a nonprofit supporting LGBTQ service members and veterans, shared a tweet Friday calling on the Pentagon to ‘reconsider its misguided policy’ and authorize the use of Pride flags on military installations,” Lubbehusen reported. “The group also noted that President Joe Biden had promised to do so on the campaign trail last year.”
In a tweet from July 2020, Biden — who was then a candidate for President — wrote: “Banning the Confederate flag from military installations was long overdue. 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.”
The White House has yet to comment on the Pentagon’s actions concerning the Pride-flag ban.