Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s new guidance on flag displays at military installations was hailed on Friday for prohibiting the display of Confederate flags — but the memo also bans the display of LGBTQ Pride flags, the Washington Blade reports.
Esper’s announcement follows a lengthy internal debate as well as recent bans on displaying the flag by both the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Navy. His two-page memo lists the various flags that are now authorized to be displayed on U.S. military property and that “promote unity and esprit de corps.”
Today I issued a memorandum to the force on the display of flags at @DeptofDefense facilities. With this change in policy, we will further improve the morale, cohesion, and readiness of the force in defense of our great Nation. pic.twitter.com/YQPc3kxf4V
— Dr. Mark T. Esper (@EsperDoD) July 17, 2020
A Pentagon spokesperson affirmed to the Blade on Friday that “a read of the guidance — which excludes the display of flags other than the U.S. flag, state flags and others listed — to prohibit LGBTQ Pride flags is ‘correct.’ ”
“The memorandum does not authorize public display of unlisted flags in the Department of Defense,” Pentagon spokesperson Lisa Lawrence said in a statement.
The Blade notes that the new guidance “could complicate annual celebrations of LGBTQ Pride month at the Pentagon. Each year since ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was lifted in 2011, the Pentagon has hosted an annual event in June for Pride month recognizing the contributions of LGBTQ service members and civilian employees of the Defense Department. (The annual event was cancelled this year, however due to the coronavirus crisis.)”
Rudy Coots, president of DOD Pride, the LGBTQ affinity group for service members and employees, objected to the Pentagon policy on the basis that it would change Pride displays and events at the Pentagon.
“We were shocked to learn DOD’s new policy on the public display of flags bans the Rainbow Pride Flag from DOD workplaces,” Coots said. “Banning the Rainbow Pride Flag will have the opposite effect of the policy’s intended purpose of improving morale, cohesion and readiness. For LGBT soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen and civilians protecting our nation each and every day, and their allies, the flag is a joyous symbol of hope, acceptance and accomplishment that should continue to be displayed proudly.”
Jennifer Dane, interim executive director for the Modern Military Association of America, told the Blade that the Pentagon is twisting an opportunity to ban the Confederate flag to achieve an anti-LGBTQ goal.
“It’s absolutely outrageous that Defense Secretary Mark Esper would ban the Pride flag — the very symbol of inclusion and diversity,” Dane said. “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? This decision sends an alarming message to LGBTQ service members, their families and future recruits.”
Dane said the Pentagon “must immediately reconsider and take swift and appropriate action to ensure the Pride flag and LGBTQ Pride Month observances are not threatened.”
“If Secretary Esper refuses to reconsider, we call on members of Congress to take action,” Dane concluded.