A new bill proposed in Congress would ban U.S. embassies from flying rainbow Pride flags, as well as any other banner that isn’t the American flag.
Introduced on Thursday, H.R. 6450 — also known as the “Old Glory Only Act” — has been co-sponsored by 30 Republican lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives. Backers include Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), Steve King (R-Iowa), and Pete Sessions (R-Texas).
In a statement, lead sponsor Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-Texas) did not specifically mention the LGBTQ community. He emphasized that the legislation applies to all flags that aren’t the Stars and Stripes.
“The United States flag is the single greatest symbol of freedom the world has ever known, and there’s no reason for anything but Old Glory to be flying over our embassies and posts around the globe,” Duncan told the Washington Examiner, a conservative news website.
The legislation, however, was proposed after a number of U.S. embassies were met with conservative backlash in recent years for flying Pride flags in solidarity with the global LGBTQ community.
Four years ago the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv hoisted a rainbow banner for the first time to mark Israel’s annual Pride celebrations. While U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro posted that the office was “proudly flying the colors,” conservative critics responded that they were “ashamed to see those flags side by side,” according to Fox News.
“How is this ‘gay pride flag’ representative of all Americans?” wrote one commenter on Facebook. “This flag needs to come down.”
A number of other U.S. embassies have also flown rainbow flags to demonstrate support for queer and trans rights under both the Obama and Trump administrations. These include Belize, Iraq, Jamaica, and Macedonia.
The introduction of H.R. 6450, though, reflects a general rollback in the federal government’s recognition of LGBTQ people under the current White House.
Although the U.S. Department of State put out a press release in support of Pride month in both 2017 and 2018, President Trump declined to do so. After honoring the LGBTQ community last year, the Pentagon failed to put out a statement this year for the first time since the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Legislation that further rolls back support for LGBTQ people isn’t surprising coming from Duncan.
A representative for South Carolina’s Third Congressional district, Duncan is an opponent of same-sex marriage and believes objections to LGBTQ rights should be federally protected as free speech. He has argued that states’ individual definitions of marriage should supersede federal law — allowing, for example, Mississippi and Tennessee to overrule the Supreme Court.
When Chik-fil-A came under fire for CEO Dan Cathy’s donations to anti-LGBTQ groups, Duncan posted a photo of himself flashing a thumbs up next to a pile of take-out bags from the restaurant chain.
“Bought #chickfila for the office this afternoon,” he tweeted in August 2012. “Never tasted so good.”
Meanwhile, Duncan was one of 138 House representatives who voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 2013 after it included protections for lesbian, bisexual, and queer women. Gohmert, Hartzler, King, and Sessions all joined him in opposing the LGBTQ inclusions.
INTO reached out to Duncan’s office for a statement on H.R. 6450, but his press secretary did not respond prior to publication time. The full text of the bill also has yet to be made public.
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