Biden’s Secretary of State orders LGBT flags to be flown at U.S. embassies around the world

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WASHINGTON, DC — At his confirmation hearing last Tuesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed that among other proposals, the Biden administration will reverse the Trump-era ban on U.S. embassies flying rainbow pride flags.

Under the Obama administration, pride flags were displayed. Under the Trump administration, embassies were told to first seek permission to fly pride flags on official flagpoles.

In a 2019 interview with NBC News White House Correspondent Kristen Welker, former Vice President Mike Pence said he supported the Trump administration’s decision to prohibit U.S. embassies from flying the pride flag:

“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.”

On Aug. 19, 2020, former Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell, who is openly gay, said Trump was the most “pro-gay president in American history.”

However, LGBTQ activist organizations, such as GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), disagreed, saying Trump weakened protections.

 

Brian K. Bond, Executive Director of PFLAG National, praised the Biden administration, saying:

“President Biden and Vice President Harris have each demonstrated a strong commitment to public service in the interest of marginalized people, inclusive of LGBTQ+ people, throughout their careers.

“This work promises to continue through the leadership of the new administration’s Cabinet, whose nominees would make it among the most racially, ethnically, and gender diverse in our nation’s history.”

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Biden’s diverse team currently includes openly gay Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg; two lesbian women of color, Pili Tobar and Karine Jean-Pierre, who will serve on the president’s all-female communications team; White House Social Secretary Carlos Elizando, who is gay; and Assistant Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine, who is the first transgender official to be confirmed by the Senate.

 

During the hearing, Blinken also confirmed that he plans to appoint an LGBTQI envoy, which was created by President Barack Obama in 2015, but not filled during the Trump presidency:

“The answer to both questions is yes, absolutely. This is a matter I think of some real urgency. We’ve seen violence directed against LGBTI people around the world increase.

“We’ve seen, I believe, the highest number of murders of transgender people, particularly women of color, that we’ve seen ever, and so 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.”

Blinken noted “some real urgency” following a surge in violence against LGBTQI people around the world.

In a report from Transrespect Versus Transphobia Worldwide (TvT), 350 transgender people were murdered globally between October 2019 and September 2020, a 6 percent increase from the previous year.

Blinken said:

“We’ve seen violence directed against LGBTQI people around the world increase, and so, 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.

“Raising the pride flag is one way to outright show LGBTQ solidarity.”

At the hearing, Blinken also said he would reject the findings of the “Commission on Unalienable Rights,” an advisory committee launched by former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The committee viewed human rights through the lens of “natural law,” which has often been used as code for the exclusion of LGBTQ rights, according to Out Front Magazine.

 

The committee’s findings claimed that queer and trans equality was an issue invented by “politicians and bureaucrats” and referred to marriage equality and reproductive rights as “divisive social and political controversies.”

The Biden administration’s commitment to LGBTQ rights is highly anticipated as Biden is the first U.S. president to openly embrace a full range of queer rights, including transgender equality.

 

Flags are a relatively easy issue to deal with, but will Biden’s administration call out countries that currently impose the death penalty for consensual homosexual acts?

A few of the countries that execute gay people include Yemen, Saudia Arabia, Nigeria, Sudan, Somalia and Iran. In addition, about 70 countries have laws that criminalize LGBTI status or conduct.

The Trump administration had accused Iran of violating fundamental human rights after Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif endorsed the execution of gay people.

 

Zarif defended his country’s draconian policies at a 2019 joint press conference with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in Tehran, according to a report by DW. When a reporter, Paul Ronzheimer, asked him why gay people were executed for their sexual orientation, Zarif replied:

“Our society has moral principles. And we live according to these principles. These are moral principles concerning the behavior of people in general. And that means that the law is respected and the law is obeyed.”

Zarif then reportedly complained about human rights violations by the U.S. and Israel.

According to a 2008 British WikiLeaks dispatch, Iran’s mullah regime executed “between 4,000 and 6,000 gays and lesbians” since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

Volker Beck, a German Green Party politician, who played a key role in bringing about marriage equality in Germany for gays and lesbians, said:

“Iran is not only the most dangerous threat to Israel’s security, it is also a champion in the state murder of actual or perceived homosexuals.”

Axel M. Hochrein, a spokesman for the Hirschfeld-Eddy-Stiftung Foundation, which fights to advance the rights of LGBTI people, said Iran is one of the “worst” countries due to its persecution of LGBTI people:

“The state publicly and regularly boasts of the execution of gay men. The ability to influence the Iranian regime regarding inhuman violations of human rights is very limited because of the isolated situation in the country.

“Therefore, our foundation calls for increased efforts by the international community to help LGBTI people escape and provide safe asylum.”

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