Budget deal would effectively ban Pride flags at US embassies

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

The $1.2 trillion government funding bill, passed Saturday, includes a provision that would functionally prohibit Pride flags from flying over U.S. embassies.

The provision didn’t explicitly say as much, but its text mimics language from similar efforts to ban Pride flags from flying over government buildings.

According to the text, “None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be obligated or expended to fly or display a flag over a facility of the United States Department of State,” except for those in a list of exceptions, which does not include the Pride flag.

The Congressional Equality Caucus characterized the provision as “a rider that restricts Pride flag displays at State Department buildings,” in a statement from Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.), Equality Caucus chair.

The White House called it a “policy targeting LGBTQI+ Americans,” saying President Biden believed “it was inappropriate to abuse the process that was essential to keep the government open” by including the provision, according to a statement to The Hill from a White House spokesperson.

The language in the text is similar to that used in the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which restricted military service members and civilian Defense Department employees from displaying Pride flags in department workspaces, common areas or public areas.

The NDAA text prohibited the display of “any flag other than an approved flag” in those areas, supplying a list of 10 approved flags, excluding the Pride flag. In a statement following the bill’s passage in the House, Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) said the bill would prevent a “rainbow flag [from] flying alongside the American Flag at our military bases.”

The move comes after Democrats sent a letter urging party leaders and President Biden to reject an earlier version of the bill including at least 40 anti-LGBTQ provisions in November.

Along with prohibiting funds from being used to fly Pride flags at certain government facilities, the provisions also would have restricted gender-affirming health care access.

Despite the remaining provision, the Congressional Equality Caucus ultimately said Republican lawmakers’ “attempts to use the appropriations process for an all-out assault on LGBTQI+ rights has officially failed.”

“Democrats successfully eliminated more than 45 anti-equality riders from the Fiscal Year 2024 funding bills during negotiations,” Pocan said.

LGBTQ rights advocates have also called it a win.

Brandon Wolf, national press secretary and senior director of political communications at the Human Rights Campaign, called the condition a “mean-spirited but limited provision” that “poses absolutely no limits” to the display of Pride flags in almost all other cases in embassies excluding building exteriors.

The White House maintained the administration will “continue to work with members of Congress” in attempts to repeal the provision in the spending package, the spokesperson said in the statement provided to The Hill.

“President Biden is committed to fighting for LGBTQI+ equality at home and abroad,” they added.

Updated 2:06 p.m. EST.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.