No Rainbow Flags to Fly at US Embassies This Year

No Rainbow Flags to Fly at US Embassies This Year

Three US diplomats have confirmed that the Trump administration is denying requests from American embassies around the world to fly the Rainbow Flag during Pride Month, NBC News reported on June 7.

According to the report, at least four such requests — from the embassies in Germany, Brazil, Israel, and Latvia — have been rejected.

The denials were issued by Brian Bulatao, the under secretary of state for management, who worked for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the CIA before Pompeo moved over to State last year. Pompeo, a longtime foe of LGBTQ rights, responded to the US Supreme Court’s 2015 marriage equality ruling by calling it a “shocking abuse of power.” The same year, in remarks to a “God and Country Rally” in Kansas, which he represented in the US House before President Donald Trump tapped him for the CIA, Pompeo said, “America had worshiped other Gods and called it multiculturalism. We’d endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle.”

The rejection of the request from the US Embassy in Berlin, in particular, highlights the hypocrisy of the Trump position on LGBTQ rights. The ambassador there, Richard Grenell, is openly gay but contentiously conservative. Several months ago, he was named as the point person on the administration’s stated aim of ending the criminalization of homosexuality in the roughly 70 countries where gay sexual relations remain illegal.

In a May 31 tweet, Trump typed, “As we celebrate LGBT Pride Month and recognize the outstanding contributions LGBT people have made to our great Nation, let us also stand in solidarity with the many LGBT people who live in dozens of countries worldwide that punish, imprison, or even execute individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation. My Administration has launched a global campaign to decriminalize homosexuality and invite all nations to join us in this effort!”

As Gay City News has reported on numerous occasions over the past 15 years, Iran has one of the world’s most heinous records on gay rights and the harassment and execution of LGBTQ people. Grenell has been an outspoken critic of the Iran regime — though, first and foremost, based on other geopolitical considerations, putting pressure on his German hosts to comply with the sanctions Trump restored after he backed out of the Iran nuclear deal negotiated by his predecessor, Barack Obama. Given the centrality of Trump’s posture toward Iran in his foreign policy and his administration’s hostility on many other LGBTQ rights fronts, Grenell’s mission and Trump’s Pride tweet can best be understood in the context of the administration’s hard line against the Islamic Republic.

In his two and a half years in office, Trump has mounted a broad push to strip transgender people of their rights — barring their service in the military, giving healthcare providers the leeway to refuse care to or otherwise discriminate against them, striving to give shelters and other facilities for the homeless the ability to ban trans people from staying there, and stripping protections from transgender students to use bathroom facilities consistent with their gender identity.

The Justice Department has also reversed the Obama administration’s position that discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is inherently sex discrimination already banned under federal law — which otherwise does not offer LGBTQ protections. Several bi-national same-sex couples have recently come forward to tell their stories about the State Department’s refusal to recognize the citizenship of their children born outside the US.

Despite this substantial record of hostility and the denials of requests to fly the Rainbow Flag at embassies, Grenell defended Trump’s commitment to LGBTQ rights in comments to NBC News.

“The president’s recognition of Pride Month and his tweet encouraging our decriminalization campaign gives me even more pride to once again march in the Berlin Pride Parade, hang a huge banner on the side of the Embassy recognizing our pride, host multiple events at the Embassy and the residence, and fly the Gay Pride Flag,” he said.

Pressed by the news outlet as to whether that meant the flag would in fact fly on the embassy flagpole in Berlin, a spokesperson for the ambassador said, “The Pride Flag will be on as many places as it can at the Embassy” — a statement that is singularly void of content.