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U.S embassies can now fly the pride flag, Biden administration grants 'blanket authorization'

The action reversed a Trump-era move by former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that rejected embassies' requests to raise the pride flag in June.

U.S embassies can now fly the pride flag, Biden administration grants 'blanket authorization'
Cover Image Source: An American Flag and Pride Flag are seen flown in Chelsea on June 20, 2020, in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images,)

American embassies and consulates around the world can now once again fly the LGBTQIA+ Pride flag on their official flagpoles. As per a confidential memo obtained by Foreign Policy magazine, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, last week, authorized all U.S. diplomatic missions to fly the rainbow flag on the same pole as the American flag. Blinken is said to have given a "blanket written authorization" for diplomats to fly the Pride flag before May 17—the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia—and to continue their display through the month of June, which in the United States and many other countries is Pride month.



According to The New York Times, the action reversed a Trump administration move by former secretary of state Mike Pompeo that rejected requests from embassies to raise the rainbow flag on their flag poles during Pride month. "As the president said on the night we were elected, we're proud to be able to serve every American. 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," former vice president Mike Pence told NBC News in defense of the policy.



Some embassies worked around the directive, including the U.S. Embassy in South Korea, which displayed a large Pride flag on its facade along with a Black Lives Matter banner. Both were later taken down. Blinken had previously vowed to overturn Pompeo's pride flag policy during his confirmation hearing in January, during which he said he would support the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning people by also appointing an LGBTQ envoy and rejecting the findings of a Trump administration "Commission on Unalienable Rights" which human rights scholars saw as a threat to LGBTQIA+ and abortion rights. 



"I think the United States playing the role that it should be playing in standing up for and defending the rights of LGBTQI people is something that the department is going to take on and take on immediately," he said at the time. The State Department dryly defended the new policy in a statement Friday. "Chiefs of Mission are the president's direct representatives overseas. The Department supports their prerogative to manage mission operations to maximize their effectiveness in that role, within the confines of U.S. law and regulation," a spokesperson said.



Whether the embassies will opt to display the pride flag remains their decision as Blinken noted in the cable that it was not a requirement and gave chiefs of mission the ability to "determine that such a display is appropriate in light of local conditions." According to ABC News, the cable detailed several actions President Biden has taken since assuming office to support "the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons and communities." It stated that the State Department will also move to protect LGBTQIA+ rights by providing asylum categories for LGTBQIA+ individuals fleeing persecution, lobbying for the repeal of laws that criminalize "LGBTQI+ status or conduct," and "building coalitions of like-minded nations and engaging international organizations in the fight against LGBTQI+ discrimination."



However, it specified that the Biden administration will maintain other limits on the country's support for LGBTQIA+ rights overseas. The cable notes that "as a matter of policy, the United States does not advocate for or against same-sex marriage abroad" and that while posts are encouraged to back "efforts to advance the fundamental freedoms of opinion and expression, peaceful assembly, and association... Discussions of same-sex marriage may result in backlash against LGBTQI+ communities in certain contexts hence posts should consult with local advocates on messaging and outreach on this issue."

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