Spending bill excludes most anti-LGBTQ riders, but bans Rainbow Flags at State Department

House lawmakers approved a $1.2 trillion spending bill on March 22.
House lawmakers approved a $1.2 trillion spending bill on March 22.

Against the backdrop of dramatic Republican infighting, the House of Representatives on March 22 approved a $1.2 trillion spending package that appeared to dodge dozens of anti-LGBTQ provisions, though lawmakers still managed to include a ban on Rainbow Flags at State Department facilities.

The House Equality Caucus, consisting of out members of the House, expressed relief that the GOP-led lower chamber was unsuccessful in advancing more anti-LGBTQ measures. Last year House Republicans introduced appropriations bills with dozens of anti-LGBTQ provisions, the Equality Caucus said. House Democrats said Republicans wanted to bar funding for gender-affirming care and Critical Race Theory, allow anti-LGBTQ discrimination “under the guise of religious liberty,” and prevent insurance plans from covering the cost of gender-affirming care, among other priorities.

While the bill does not specifically bar Rainbow Flags flags, it eliminates them by limiting the kinds of flags deemed acceptable at the State Department. The spending package stipulates that the only flags that can be raised at State Department facilities are American flags, US agency flags, the POW/MIA flag, flags representing other countries, the Hostage and Wrongful Detainee flag, and flags for “a State, insular area, or the District of Columbia at domestic locations,” the bill noted.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, the GOP sought to include a total of 52 anti-LGBTQ “riders,” which are known as provisions added to bills, but the flag policy was the only one that made it through.

“Anti-equality Republicans’ attempts to use the appropriations process for an all-out assault on LGBTQI+ rights has officially failed,” Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, who chairs the Congressional Equality Caucus, said in a written statement. “Democrats successfully eliminated more than 45 anti-equality riders from the Fiscal Year 2024 funding bills during negotiations — including harmful riders targeting medically necessary care for transgender people or undermining nondiscrimination protections for our community. Unfortunately, Republicans fought to maintain a rider that restricts Pride flag displays at State Department buildings, and the final funding bills did not include some LGBTQI+ community funding projects. Our membership will keep fighting for our community in the FY2025 Appropriations process by working to keep bad riders out of future funding bills and ensure no community projects get cut.”

Meanwhile, as lawmakers approved the spending package, Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene mounted a fresh bid to replace Speaker Mike Johnson, claiming he had “betrayed our conference and broken our rules.” Greene blasted the spending package, saying it “is not a Republican bill; this is a Chuck Schumer, Democrat-controlled bill.”

Among other takeaways, an effort by House Republicans to slash more than $700 million in domestic HIV funding was also rejected, according to Carl Schmid, the executive director of the HIV + Hepatitis Policy Institute.

“While flat funding does not expand our efforts to prevent and treat HIV or get us closer to ending HIV, it is much better than the alternative we have been facing, which was cutting vital HIV services and jeopardizing people’s lives,” Schmid said in a written statement.

The vote was 286-134, with 112 Republicans and 22 Democrats opposing it. Cori Bush of Missouri, a Democrat who voted against the bill, posted a video on X saying the bill would increase in military and immigration enforcement funding and slash health and education funding.

Shortly after, the Senate overwhelmingly approved it in a procedural move ahead of a final vote before the midnight deadline, according to NBC News. The full Senate gave final approval after the deadline passed and President Joe Biden signed it.