Pride flags to remain banned on military bases, Pentagon says

Pride flags will remain banned from U.S. military installations, even during Pride Month, the Pentagon says, upholding a policy former Defense Secretary Mark Esper established last July.

The Defense Department “will maintain the existing policy from July 2020 regarding the display or depiction of unofficial flags,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Friday at a news briefing, confirming that “there won’t be an exception this month for the Pride flag.”

However, Kirby noted that the choice “in no way reflects any lack of respect or admiration for people of the LGBTQ+ community, personnel in and out of uniform who serve in this department.” 

“We’re proud of them,” he added. Kirby explained that the decision was made to avoid challenges that could arise from making an exception to the policy.

Kirby noted that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will participate in Pride Month festivities at the Pentagon this week. 

Austin “encourages all commands to likewise find ways to recognize the service and contributions of the LGBTQ+ community in defense of this nation,” Kirby said in a statement. 

The Trump administration’s flag policy was put in place to limit what flags were able to be flown at military installations and was notable for excluding the Confederate flag, NBC News previously reported

Esper, a Trump appointee, confirmed the modification in a July 17, 2020, memo that contains guidance on what flags are allowed to be flown. Permitted flags included U.S. state and territory flags, military service flags, the prisoners of war and missing in action flag, and several others. 

The Modern Military Association of America, a nonprofit supporting LGBTQ service members and veterans, shared a tweet Friday calling on the Pentagon to “reconsider its misguided policy” and authorize the use of Pride flags on military installations. The group also noted that President Joe Biden had promised to do so on the campaign trail last year. 

In a tweet last July, then-candidate Biden said: “Banning the Confederate flag from military installations was long overdue. 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.”

The White House did not immediately respond to request for comment. 

On the first day of his presidency, Biden issued an executive orderthat expanded federal laws preventing discrimination on the basis of sex to include LGBTQ individuals. Days later, the president reversed the Trump administration’s ban on transgender people from openly serving in the military.

Last week, Biden released A Proclamation on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Pride Month, 2021, in which he honored the “remarkable progress” the LGBTQ community has made since the June 1969 Stonewall Inn uprising, which ignited the modern LGBTQ movement for equality. The president also noted that close to 14 percent of his administration’s 1,500 agency appointees identify as LGBTQ.