According to a statement published Friday, the Department of Defense intends to “maintain existing policy for the display of unofficial flags,” including the Pride flag.
“This decision was not made lightly, nor does it in any way reflect on the respect and admiration we feel for all our LGBTQ+ personnel in and out of uniform,” Pentagon press secretary said in a statement issued to UPI. “It stems, rather, from a concern about other challenges to the policy that an exception of this kind might engender and encourage.”
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, according to Kirby, plans to participate in Pride Month celebrations at the Pentagon next week and “encourages all commands to likewise find ways to recognise the service and contributions of the LGBTQ+ community in defence of this nation.”
The Department of Defense’s decision contradicts a campaign pledge made by President Joe Biden last summer, as well as a decision revealed this spring by Secretary of State Atony Blinken.
The Pentagon’s restriction on the display of unauthorised flags derives from a July letter that provided a list of flags permitted for exhibition by the Defense Department and that “that promote unity and esprit de corps.”
Authorized flags include the United States flag, flags of states or territories, civilian banners recognised by the Senate, and flags of ally nations – but not the Confederate battle flag. By the time then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper published the letter, some branches of the US military had prohibited the display of the Confederate flag and other Confederate symbols on military grounds.
“Banning the Confederate flag from military installations was long overdue,” Joe Biden, then a candidate for U.S. president, wrote on Twitter after Esper’s memo was issued last summer. “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.”
In April the State Department issued a blanket authorization for U.S. diplomatic missions across the world to fly the flag on the same pole as the American flag at embassies and consulates.
During a press briefing Friday, Kirby told reporters there had been no formal review of the previous policy, but “knowing that the month of June was approaching, we wanted to do due diligence and take a look at the old policy and see if we felt it was still applicable.”
“It’s another statement that our service isn’t as important as everyone else’s,” Jennifer Dane, CEO and executive director of the Modern Military Association of America, an advocacy organization supporting LGBTQ+ service members and veterans, told CNN. “It’s a small thing that matters especially during Pride month.”
The DoD held its first LGBTQ+ Pride month event at the Pentagon in 2012.