June 5 (UPI) — The Department of Defense plans to “maintain existing policy for the display of unofficial flags,” including the Pride flag, according to a statement issued Friday.
“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.”
According to Kirby, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin plans to participate in Pride Month activities at the Pentagon next week, and “encourages all commands to likewise find ways to recognize the service and contributions of the LGBTQ+ community in defense of this nation.”
The DoD’s decision runs odds with a campaign promise made by President Joe Biden last summer — and with a decision Secretary of State Atony Blinken announced this spring.
The Pentagon’s policy regarding the display of unofficial flags stems from a memo issued last July that included a list of flags authorized for display by the Defense Department “that promote unity and esprit de corps.”
Authorized flags include the U.S. flag, flags of states or territories, Senate-confirmed civilian flags and flags of allied nations — and notably excluded the Confederate battle flag. By the time then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper issued the memo several elements of the U.S. military had banned the display of the flag, and other Confederate imagery, at military installations.
“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.