Pentagon & Congress

Pentagon’s ban on Pride, and nearly all other, flags is staying

After a review, the Pentagon has decided not to grant an exception to display LGBTQ+ flags on military installations during June, the official LGBTQ+ pride month, a Pentagon spokesman told reporters on Friday.

The Defense Department is sticking with a policy created a year ago by then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper in response to calls for banning the display of the Confederate flag in offices and communal housing spaces.

“After some careful consideration, the department will maintain the existing policy from July of 2020 regarding the display or depiction of unofficial flags,” John Kirby said. “So there won’t be an exception made this month for the Pride flag.”

Leadership had considered making an exception for June, during which the services and the department participate in celebrations and other displays of support for Pride month.

“This was really more about the potential for ... other challenges that could arise from that exception, that specific exception,” Kirby added.

The flag policy explicitly bans all unofficial flags from public display on installations, from social movements to sports teams.

Esper faced immediate backlash after the policy went live, but in a interview with Military Times ahead of his ouster in November, he defended his decision.

“So I thought I had a really clever way, creative way of addressing it,” he said, in an attempt not to single out any one flag or group, as the Marine Corps did just weeks earlier.

The policy strictly allows only U.S. flags, POW/MIA flags, U.S. state flags, military/unit flags and, in some cases, flags of allied countries, when their representatives are on official visits.

“So I don’t want the military politicized any which way — I don’t want a Confederate flag. I don’t want a Proud Boys flag … take any of your groups on the left, I don’t want their flags,” he said.

The policy will stay in place for the time being, Kirby said, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has no plans for a deeper review to make it more precise.

“And as we speak right now, his belief is that that policy should be maintained,” he said.

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