Amid Trump flag ban, US Embassy branch in Tel Aviv decorated for Pride parade
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Amid Trump flag ban, US Embassy branch in Tel Aviv decorated for Pride parade

Rainbow banners do not appear to breach administration’s bar on Pride flag flying from flagpole at diplomatic missions

Photo on the US Embassy Jerusalem's twitter page on June 13, 2019, captioned: "The U.S. Embassy Branch Office in Tel Aviv is ready for the PRIDE parade tomorrow!" (Twitter)
Photo on the US Embassy Jerusalem's twitter page on June 13, 2019, captioned: "The U.S. Embassy Branch Office in Tel Aviv is ready for the PRIDE parade tomorrow!" (Twitter)

The US Embassy branch office in Tel Aviv decorated its building with rainbow flag banners for the city’s Pride parade, amid a Trump administration ban on flying the Pride flag from the flagpole at diplomatic missions. The decoration did not appear to breach the flagpole ban.

A photo of the building decked out in two rainbow banners and rainbow streamers was published on the US Embassy in Jerusalem’s official Twitter account on Thursday.

“The U.S. Embassy Branch Office in Tel Aviv is ready for the PRIDE parade tomorrow!” the tweet said.

Prior to Pride Month, the Trump administration issued an official ban on US embassies flying the signature rainbow flag on their flagpoles. Israel was one of four US embassies reportedly explicitly denied permission to fly a Pride flag. The other three are Germany, Brazil and Latvia.

“(W)hen it comes to the American flagpole, and American embassies, and capitals around the world, one American flag flies,” US Vice President Mike Pence told NBC news earlier this week when asked about the ban.

US diplomats in Jerusalem joined the city’s Pride parade last week, according to Haaretz.

US Vice President Mike Pence addresses AIPAC’s policy conference in Washington DC, March 25, 2019. (Jim Watson/AFP)

Pence on Tuesday defended the ban, saying it was “the right decision.”

“As the president said on the night we were elected, we’re proud to be able to serve every American,” Pence told NBC News, when asked whether the ban contradicted US President Donald Trump’s tweet celebrating Pride Month.

“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,” the vice president said.

Pence said that there was no ban on the pride flag, or other flags, flying elsewhere at US embassies.

Pence, an evangelical Christian, is opposed to same-sex marriage and criticized measures designed to protect members of the LGBTQ community from discrimination. He is also thought to be in favor of conversion therapy.

A US flag is raised alongside a pride flag on the US Embassy (then in Tel Aviv) a day before the Pride Parade in Tel Aviv, on June 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty, File)

The US State Department on Monday confirmed that the decision to bar the flags was made by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Pompeo, also an evangelical Christian, has said that he defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, but has also said he respects employees regardless of sexual orientation.

“The secretary has the position that, as it relates to the flagpole, that only the American flag should be flown there,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told reporters.

But she said that US diplomats overseas were free to display rainbows flags elsewhere at embassies in June — Pride Month, with this year marking the 50th anniversary of New York’s Stonewall uprising that sparked the modern gay rights movement.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the opening of the Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2019 in The Hague, Netherlands, June 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Phil Nijhuis)

“Pride Month, that we’re in right now, was celebrated around the world by many State Department employees,” she said.

The previous administration of president Barack Obama, an advocate of gay rights equality, let US embassies fly the pride flag with no questions asked and even lit up the White House in the rainbow colors when the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in 2015.

News of Pompeo’s orders provoked outrage among gay rights advocates.

“At a time when LGBTQ+ communities around the world face persecution, this Trump @StateDept decision is a blatant attack on LGBTI rights,” said Senator Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts.

“As we celebrate Pride Month, this decision must be reversed. I am demanding the Trump admin explain this hate,” he tweeted.

Chad Griffin, head of the Human Rights Campaign, the lead US gay rights group, said that the flag order “sends a chilling message not only to LGBTQ people in this country, but around the globe.”

One of the most prominent gay members of Trump’s administration is Richard Grenell, the US Ambassador to Germany.

A former commentator on Fox News, Grenell said he enjoyed the support of Trump and Pence for a US-led campaign to end persecution of gay people — an initiative that notably criticizes US arch-rival Iran.

AFP contributed to this story.

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