Funding bill bars US embassies from flying LGBTQ Pride flags

Funding bill bars US embassies from flying LGBTQ Pride flags
Funding bill bars US embassies from flying LGBTQ Pride flags

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - File photo of a rainbow seen in the sky behind LGBT pride flags and the US flag in West Hollywood, California June 26, 2015. - Reuters pic

WASHINGTON, March 24 — Tucked in the massive funding bill signed today by President Joe Biden is a provision banning the flying of LGBTQ Pride flags over US embassies, but the White House has vowed to work toward its repeal.

The prohibition was one of many side issues included in the mammoth US$1.2 trillion (RM5.7 trillion) package to fund the government through September, which passed today shortly after a midnight deadline.

As Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson, a conservative Christian, scrambled for votes to get the bill passed in his chamber, he “boasted” of the Pride flag ban as a reason his party should support the bill, the Daily Beast reported.

The White House said today it would seek to find a way to repeal the ban on flying the rainbow flag, which celebrates the movement for LGBTQ equality.

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“Biden believes it was inappropriate to abuse the process that was essential to keep the government open by including this policy targeting LGBTQI+ Americans,” a White House statement said, adding that the president “is committed to fighting for LGBTQI+ equality at home and abroad.”

The White House said that while it had not been able to block the flag proposal, it was “successful in defeating 50+ other policy riders attacking the LGBTQI+ community that Congressional Republicans attempted to insert into the legislation.”

The law signed by Biden says that no US funding can be used to “fly or display a flag over a facility of the United States Department of State” other than US or other government-related flags, or flags supporting prisoners of war, missing-in-action soldiers, hostages and wrongfully imprisoned Americans.

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But while such flags may not be flown “over” US embassies, it does not speak to displaying them elsewhere on embassy grounds or inside offices, the Biden camp has argued.

“It will have no impact on the ability of members of the LGBTQI+ community to serve openly in our embassies or to celebrate Pride,” the White House said, referencing the month, usually in June, when LGBTQ parades and other events are held.

The Biden administration has strongly embraced LGBTQ rights. In a sharp change from the administration, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has not only allowed but encouraged US missions to fly the rainbow flag during Pride month.

Blinken’s predecessor Mike Pompeo, an evangelical Christian, ordered that only the US flag fly from embassy flagpoles.

In 2015, former president Barack Obama’s administration lit up the White House in rainbow colours — delighting liberals and infuriating some conservatives — as it celebrated the landmark Supreme Court decision legalising same-sex marriage across the United States. — AFP

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