Flying the Rainbow flag is a decision for individual British embassies

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

The sight of the international symbol of the gay community flying from British embassy buildings in Riga and Warsaw in past weeks has been widely praised as a symbol of the UK’s commitment to gay rights.

The Rainbow flag has been displayed twice, both times in EU nations that have banned gay events.

A spokesperson for the Foreign and Commonwealth office told that the symbolic gesture is not part of an “overall” policy to promote LGBT equality.

“Participation is taken up by each embassy,” she said.

“It is up to the head of each post.”

The decision to fly the flag in Riga and Warsaw to show support for their respective Pride events was warmly welcomed by gay rights activists in Poland and Latvia.

In May the Foreign and Commonwealth Office confirmed its commitment to engage with foreign governments about the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people.

It issued an ‘LGBT Toolkit’ to its 261 embassies, high commissions and other diplomatic posts.

The kit contains information on the official British policy on gay rights and instructions in how to “provide added value to equality and non-discrimination work.”

It covers a wide range of issues, from decriminalisation, sexual health, reproductive rights and health education to bilateral work with other countries.

A spokesperson for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office told

“The UK remains committed to promoting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people overseas.

“Last December the FCO adopted a programme of action for promoting the human rights of LGBT people abroad.

“This made clear that sexual orientation cannot be a qualifying factor in the application of human rights.

“We have now worked with partners to develop a programme to guide our embassies overseas.
“This programme has now been sent to all our diplomatic posts worldwide.

“We will continue to engage with our posts to promote the rights LGBT people across the world.”