The Biden administration has given blanket authorization to fly LGBT pride flags at U.S. embassies and consulates around the world. The rainbow flag — a symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender pride — will be permitted to fly on the same official flagpoles that fly the American flag.
The new policy was announced by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, which repeals the decision by his predecessor Mike Pompeo during former President Donald Trump's tenure at the White House.
U.S. diplomatic outposts are given "blanket written authorization ... to display the Pride flag on the external-facing flagpole, for the duration of the 2021 Pride season," the cable said, according to ABC News. The cable was reportedly sent out this week, a little more than a month before Pride Month is celebrated in June and only weeks before International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia on May 17.
According to the cable, the Biden administration recognized that the LGBT gesture could be seen as inflammatory in certain countries.
"The cable contained a hedge, though, saying the authorization is not a requirement and chiefs of mission who run each embassy or consulate can choose whether to fly the Pride flag or showcase other symbols connoting support for LGBTQ rights based on what is 'appropriate in light of local conditions,'" as reported first by Foreign Policy.
"As a matter of policy, the United States does not advocate for or against same-sex marriage abroad," the confidential cable reportedly stated, adding that American outposts 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."
During his confirmation hearing in January, Blinken said, "I think the United States playing the role that it should be playing in standing up for and defending the rights of LGBTQ people is something that the (State) Department is going to take on and take on immediately," At the time, Blicken also promised to quickly fill the empty position of LGBTI envoy, which he declared to be "a matter, I think, of some real urgency."
The State Department provided a comment to the New York Post on the policy reversal, "President Biden believes that America's strength is found in its diversity. America is stronger, at home and around the world, when it is inclusive."
"Recognizing that each country context is different, U.S. embassies and consulates develop individual plans to raise awareness of violence, human rights abuses, and discrimination targeting LGBTQI+ persons, including appropriate exterior displays," the statement said.
The Trump administration permitted U.S. outposts to display LGBT signaling on other parts of the properties after getting permission from the State Department's Office of Management, but forbid any flags from flying on the same pole as Old Glory. In 2019, several American embassies defied the Trump administration's order and flew LGBT flags in honor of Pride Month. The U.S. embassy in South Korea hung a massive LGBT flag and Black Lives Matter flag on the facade of the building, but later removed them after orders from the State Department.
In 2019, then-Vice President Mike Pence defended the adjudgment to not allow the sexuality-related flag to be flown next to the Stars and Stripes. "As the president said on the night we were elected, we're proud to be able to serve every American," he told NBC News. "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."