Shortly before Election Day in 2016, Donald Trump grabbed a flag from an audience member as he took the stage at a Colorado rally. It was a rainbow flag that had the words “LGBT for TRUMP” scribbled on it, and so Trump couldn’t resist using it as a self-serving prop, displaying it as if he’s one of the world’s foremost champions of gay rights.
Although June has been celebrated around the world as LGBTQ Pride Month for decades in commemoration of the June 1969 Stonewall riots, it took Trump three Junes until he finally brought himself to even tweet about it, claiming it’s time to “recognize the outstanding contributions LGBT people have made.” Despite those words, Trump proceeded to reject every request from U.S. embassies to fly the Pride flag on flagpoles, reversing the longstanding policy under the Obama administration.
When Secretary of State Antony Blinken sat for his confirmation hearing in January, he promised to reverse Trump’s backward policy, pointing out that the ability to fly the Pride flag is more than just a symbolic act. “We’ve seen violence directed against LGBTQI people around the world increase… the highest number of murders of transgender people, particularly women of color, that we’ve seen ever,” he explained.
Soon after Blinken was confirmed, President Biden signed a historic memorandum directing agencies operating abroad “to ensure that United States diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons.” While speaking about the memorandum, Biden pointed out that “[w]hen we defend equal rights of the people the world over… we also ensure that those rights are protected for our own children here in America.”
Making good on their word, Blinken announced Thursday that the Biden administration is issuing a blanket authorization for U.S. embassies and consulates to fly the Pride flag on the same flagpole as the American flag. Rather than wait until June, U.S. agencies abroad may begin flying the Pride flag as early as next month to begin marking May 17, the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.
This move represents another important step beyond the dark ages of the Trump regime, which did nothing other than offer occasional lip service to advance equality and dignity for people who face discrimination and violence. As President Biden recently acknowledged, the United States “cannot afford to be absent any longer on the world stage.” Under the Biden administration, America is once again flying flags, starting conversations, and taking bold action in the name of fighting bigotry.