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Pentagon may allow LGBTQ pride flags to be flown on military bases, reversing Trump-era ‘no non-gov’t flags’ rule: Report

An LGBTQ flag (torbakhopper/Flickr)
June 02, 2021

The Pentagon is examining a Trump-era policy that restricts the types of flags that can be flown on military bases, according to a senior defense official, CNN reported Tuesday.

The consideration comes as the nation kicks off Pride Month, a celebration to honor the LGBTQ community. While the defense official said that no decision have been made, changes to the policy could allow the rainbow Pride flag to be displayed.   

“This goes beyond the issue of the Pride flag,” the official said, noting that the change would apply to numerous non-governmental flags. “The truth is we haven’t resolved it yet.”

According to the official, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is aware of the review, and discussions are underway including Austin’s legal staff.

The policy was first established by former President Donald Trump’s Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, who sought to ban displaying the Confederate flag amid heightened racial tensions and the reinvigorated Black Lives Matter movement.

CNN reported that the Pentagon could follow the State Department’s lead and apply any changes specifically to the Pride flag. In April, Secretary of State Antony Blinken authorized U.S. diplomatic outposts to fly the Pride flag on the same flagpole as those displaying the US flag.

Whether any policy changes will apply to the Black Lives Matter flag is unknown.

In May, Ramstein Air Base said it removed a photo of uniformed airmen flying a pro-police “Thin Blue Line” flag, also known as a “Blue Lives Matter” or “Police Lives Matter” flag, that was flown during a ruck march in honor of National Police Week. The base apologized for the move and said the photo violated Esper’s policy regarding the types of flags that are permitted to be flown on U.S. bases.

“Flags are powerful symbols, particularly in the military community for whom flags embody common mission, common histories, and the special, timeless bond of warriors,” then-Secretary of Defense Esper wrote in a memo regarding the policy. “The flags we fly must accord with the military imperatives of good order and discipline, treating all our people with dignity and respect, and rejecting divisive symbols.”

In addition to the American flag, service members and DOD employees are currently authorized to display only flags of U.S. states and territories, military service branches, general officer flags, civilian flags appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, the POW/MIA flag, flags for U.S. allied or partner nations, flags of global organizations with U.S. membership such as NATO, Senior Executive Service (SES) and Military Department-specific SES flags, and flags or guidons associated with ceremonies, commands, units, and branches.

All other flags not specified in the memo remain banned from military installations.