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September 21, 2019

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EDITORIAL:

Displays of pride and acceptance are in line with American values

Image

Oded Balilty / AP

In this June 12, 2014, photo, a U.S. flag is raised alongside a pride flag on the U.S. Embassy a day before the Gay Pride Parade in Tel Aviv, Israel.

It’s happened in Seoul and New Delhi, in Vienna and Santiago, Chile, and many other places around the globe. In recent days, U.S. diplomats have pushed back against the Trump administration’s apparent ban on displaying rainbow flags at embassies in support of LGBT Pride Month.

Now, there’s some uplifting news. In what one diplomat called “a category one insurrection,” officials have quietly either flown flags or made other shows of defiance against Trump’s homophobic policy, such as posting images of the flag on websites or showing themselves participating in Pride events.

In doing so, they’re not only demonstrating our nation’s core value of embracing diversity but are also calling attention to the administration’s duplicity on the issue.

Although Trump issued a statement celebrating LGBT Pride Month and calling for all nations to “stand in solidarity” with persecuted members of the LGBT community, the administration reportedly was at work reversing an Obama-era policy of allowing embassies to fly the flag.

Under Obama, such requests were routinely granted with the stipulation that the flags had to be smaller than the Stars and Stripes mounted on mission flagpoles and buildings. Eventually, the matter became such a non-issue that decision-making authority was passed down to the lead ambassadors at each site.

Enter Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, though, and homophobia has crept into the picture.

As reported by several media outlets, permission now has to come from the top. And that’s where things have gone awry, as Pompeo’s office reportedly has rejected all requests from diplomats to display the colors.

That’s shameful, but it should surprise no one given Pompeo’s history.

A former state and federal lawmaker from Kansas, Pompeo stridently opposes same-sex marriage. His record on the issue includes opposing the military’s lifting of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy as a three-term congressman from Kansas, publicly referring to same-gender relationships as a “perversion” and responding to the landmark 2015 Supreme Court ruling that effectively legalized same-sex marriage by vowing to “continue to fight to protect our most sacred institutions.”

During his confirmation hearings, Pompeo reiterated his anti-LGBT stance by giving a non-answer response to a question about whether he still believed same-sex marriage was a perversion.

“When I was a politician, I had a very clear view on whether it was appropriate for two same-sex persons to marry. I stand by that,” he said.

In other words, yes.

Although the administration has appointed several gay ambassadors and Pompeo has said that homosexual employees of the State Department would be treated fairly, his actions say something far different.

So it’s commendable for diplomats to be bucking the administration and showing their support, not just for their colleagues but for LGBT community members worldwide whose rights are either being denied or eroded.

That includes homosexuals in the United States, where conservatives in several states continue to press for discriminatory policies. Just look at what happened in Wisconsin last week, where right-leaning lawmakers called it “divisive” to fly the rainbow flag at the state Capitol.

What an interesting term, considering that conservatives have been fighting inclusiveness for generations.

Meanwhile, Americans have made it abundantly clear that the vast majority of us support same-sex unions. That’s been shown not just in poll after poll but in an array of other ways, including by turning out for Pride events.

Pompeo and the Trump administration are completely out of line, as shown in their actions and false words.

On the other hand, the ambassadors who are quietly protesting the administration are being the true Americans here. They’re taking a significant risk, including the possibility of losing their jobs, in the name of our values. It’s well worth noting, too, that many of them aren’t holdovers from Democratic administrations — several are Trump nominees, including the leaders of the missions listed above.

May many more of their colleagues join them, and may many more rainbow flags pop up on embassy flagpoles, walls and social media pages across the world.