The Pentagon said Friday that it will not make changes to a Trump administration policy that banned all unofficial flags, including the rainbow Pride flag representing the LGBTQ+ community, on U.S. military installations for Pride month.
The Department of Defense “will maintain the existing policy from July 2020 regarding the display or depiction of unofficial flags,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said at a press briefing Friday. “There won’t be an exception this month for the Pride flag.”
Last summer, then-President Donald Trump’s secretary of defense, Mark Esper, sent out a memo that banned the display of all unofficial flags.
“The flags we fly,” the secretary wrote in the memo, “must accord with the military imperatives of good order and discipline, treating all our people with dignity and respect, and rejecting divisive symbols.”
The Pentagon’s decision was particularly noteworthy because it indirectly but effectively banned the display of the Confederate flag on U.S. military bases even as the president pushed back on efforts to eliminate celebrations of the Confederacy, particularly the renaming of bases named after Confederate leaders.
Although prohibiting the display of symbols long associated with hate was generally seen as a progressive step, there was some criticism of the policy because it also banned the display or depiction of flags like the rainbow Pride flag.
The Modern Military Association of America, a large LGBTQ military and veteran non-profit organization, said at the time that “it’s absolutely outrageous that Defense Secretary Mark Esper would ban the Pride flag — the very symbol of inclusion and diversity.”
The organization’s director asked: “In what universe is it OK to turn an opportunity to ban a racist symbol like the Confederate flag into an opportunity to ban the symbol of diversity?”
Kirby said Friday that the decision to uphold the policy was really about “the potential for other challenges that could arise from” making an exception. CNN reported that there were concerns that changing the policy could open the door to other cause-related banners at U.S. military bases.
The decision runs contrary to one made by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and reported by Foreign Policy in April authorizing diplomatic posts around the world to fly the Pride flag.
Kirby stressed that “this 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,” adding that “we’re proud of them.”
In a statement to CNN, Kirby said that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who will participate in Pride Month activities, “encourages all commands to likewise find ways to recognize the service and contributions of the LGBTQ+ community in defense of this nation.”
This article was written by Ryan Pickrell and originally published on the Insider.