Pence defends ban on pride flags at US embassies

Israel reportedly among embassies denied permission to fly rainbow flag during Pride Month; vice president says only American flag should be raised on flagpole

Vice President Mike Pence gives the crowd a thumbs-up before climbing into his motorcade at the Savannah St. Patrick's Day parade, March 17, 2018, in Savannah, Georgia. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
Vice President Mike Pence gives the crowd a thumbs-up before climbing into his motorcade at the Savannah St. Patrick's Day parade, March 17, 2018, in Savannah, Georgia. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

US Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday defended a State Department ban on American embassies from flying the rainbow flag of the pride movement during LGBTQ Pride Month, saying it was “the right decision.”

The US Embassy in Israel was one of four places where diplomats were denied permission to fly the flag, the Guardian reported. The other countries were Germany, Brazil and Latvia.

“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 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 Entrepeneurship 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.

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