Despite Biden’s promise, Pentagon maintains ban on Pride flags on military bases: ‘There won’t be an exception’

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In July of 2020, former Defense Secretary, Mark Esper, established a policy forbidding U.S. military’s installations from flying the Pride flags, including during Pride month. According to the Pentagon, they will continue to uphold the ban at this current time. 

On Friday, June 4th, Pentagon press secretary, John Kirby gave a news briefing where he said the Defense Department:

“will maintain the existing policy from July 2020 regarding the display or depiction of unofficial flags,”

He went on to say:

“there won’t be an exception this month for the Pride flag.”

However, Kirby noted that the choice:

“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 added:

“We’re proud of them,” 

Kirby explained that the decision was made to avoid challenges that could arise from making an exception to the policy, NBC reported.

Kirby noted that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will participate in Pride Month festivities at the Pentagon this week. 

Kirby also said in a statement:

“[Austin] encourages all commands to likewise find ways to recognize the service and contributions of the LGBTQ+ community in defense of this nation,” 

The flag policy was put in place under the Trump administration to limit what flags were able to be flown at military installations, buildings and vehicles. This effectively bans the use of Confederate flags, without mentioning the controversial symbol specifically. 

Esper, a Trump appointee, confirmed the modification in a July 17, 2020, memo that contains guidance on what flags are allowed to be flown. Permitted flags included U.S. state and territory flags, military service flags, the prisoners of war and missing in action flag, and several others, NBC news reported

On Friday, the Modern Military Association of America, a nonprofit supporting LGBTQ service members and veterans, tweeted that they called on the Pentagon to “reconsider its misguided policy and authorize the use of Pride flags on military installations,”

In the tweet, the group also pointed out that that President Joe Biden had promised to do so on the campaign trail last year.

The promise that the group is referring to, Biden stated in a tweet last July.

In the tweet, then-candidate Biden said:

“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.”

At this point, the White House has not commented on the Pentagon’s decision. 

NBC reported that last week, Biden released A Proclamation on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Pride Month, 2021, in which he honored the “remarkable progress” the LGBTQ community has made since the June 1969 Stonewall Inn uprising, which ignited the modern LGBTQ movement for equality. The president also noted that close to 14 percent of his administration’s 1,500 agency appointees identify as LGBTQ.

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Proposed bill in Vermont would ban Black Lives Matter and other ‘political’ flags from schools grounds

February 8, 2021

MONTPELIER, VT- A pending bill proposed by a group of lawmakers in Vermont would prohibit any flag other than the American flag or a Vermont state flag to be flown on school grounds in the state of Vermont. 

Vermont State Representative Brian Smith (R-Derby), who proposed House Bill 92, said in a statement to Seven Days:

“Everybody, whether you’re black or gay or Hispanic or white, we’re all Americans. We all live under one red, white, and blue flag.”

Back by eight House Republicans, H.92 seeks to help school boards focused more on “educating kids” and less on debating “political agendas” such as that of the Black Lives Matter movement, said Smith. 

He said that he proposed the ban on anything other than American or Vermont flags after he noticed school boards would “spend hours upon hours” arguing over whether to raise the Black Lives Matter flag over campuses.

Montpelier High School became the first in the nation to raise it after a student-led effort back in 2018. Since then, students at a number of other Vermont schools have followed suit, including some spurred by last summer’s national reckoning systemic racism and policing.

The movement spread across the state, but has caused a significant amount of controversy. Smith said that H.92 would simplify matters by codifying that only American and Vermont flags may be flown.

He emphasized that the legislation did not single out Black Lives Matter or any other individual group and said Prison of War (POW) flags and other flags representing causes would not be permitted.

Smith argued that raising any flag beyond the U.S. and Vermont ones opens the door to all types of requests and would keep school boards mired in debate. Smith couldn’t say why he chose a “flat-out ban” instead of a bill that would just specify what types of flags would be allowed. He said:

“It just came into my head that this was the way I wanted to do it.”

As he continued to explain, he honed his rationale by saying:

“These other groups have agendas. The American flag and the Vermont state flag are not an agenda flag.”

Smith suggested that his proposal would be a way to smooth tensions amid a charged political environment. He said:

“I’m a taxpayer. I pay for the public schools. Someone that is a fully supportive member of the BLM movement is a taxpayer as well. This takes that person and I from not having to argue over whether the flag should be flown or not.”

He added:

“There’s enough conflicts going on right now. We don’t need to keep adding to it.”

Montpelier Roxbury School Board Chair Jim Murphy called Smith’s proposed legislation the “epitome of white privilege.” Murphy approved the request from the high school to fly the Black Lives Matter flag. He said:

“These are issues that have been under the surface and have been the cause and continue to be the cause of a lot of inequity and injustice and hurt in our society.”

He added:

“Avoiding these discussions benefits those who already have privilege and keeps those that don’t in the same position they’ve been in.”

Murphy said it was “ridiculous” to suggest that Montpelier’s discussion over whether to raise its flag in any way detracted from student’s learning experience. He said:

“It was both not an onerous debate and a productive debate that has advanced the educational and other values of the district. These are the debates that districts need to be having.”

House Education Committee chair Rep. Kate Webb (D-Shelburne) told Seven Days in a text message that she does not intend to take up the bill, effectively already killing the bill.

She said she will long remember watching the student-led efforts to raise the flag in Montpelier and other schools. She wrote:

“I cannot imagine being involved in a law that would have made that illegal.”


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