Pentagon keeps Trump’s ban on Pride flags flown in military bases firmly in place

US embassy pride flag

In a surprise turn, the US Pentagon has moved to maintain a Trump-era ban on Pride flags being flown on military bases, among other “unofficial” flags.

The Trump administration prohibited military bases from hoisting the Pride flag, alongside the Confederate flag and others, in 2020. Then defence secretary Mark Esper called such flags “divisive” in department memos.

But with Donald Trump unseated and Joe Biden in office, who only recently binned a Trump ban on rainbow flags being flown in US embassies, hopes were raised that the military base flag ban would be scrapped, too.

Not quite, the Pentagon confirmed Friday (4 June). Following deliberations, the Defence Department will stick to Esper’s blanket policy and military installations will not be able to fly the rainbow flag for Pride month.

“After some careful consideration, the department will maintain the existing policy from July of 2020 regarding the display or depiction of unofficial flags,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said at a press briefing.

“So there won’t be an exception made this month for the Pride flag.”

Pentagon will ‘maintain’ Pride flag ban

Kirby added that there was no “formal review” into the issue, but with Pride Month on the then-horizon, officials did look into it.

“I would stress only two more things […] one, this in no way reflects any lack of respect or admiration for people of the LGBT+ community, personnel in and out of uniform who serve in this department,” he added.

“We’re proud of them. I mentioned that on Monday, that the secretary’s pride and respect and admiration for the service that they render to their country.”

Kirby sought to clarify that the policy being kept in place was less to do with banning the Pride flag specifically, but what creating an exception might mean.

US defence secretary Lloyd Austin said the policy should be ‘maintained’, officials said. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The current policy not only bans Pride flags, but various other “unofficial” designs, from social movements to sports teams.

Only the US flag, state flags, military flags, the National League of Families POW/MIA flag and flags of allied countries may be flown.

“This was really more about the potential for,” Kirby continued, “other challenges that could arise from that exception, that specific exception.”

Kirby said that defence secretary Lloyd Austin currently has no plans to peel back the policy.

“And as we speak right now, his belief is that that policy should be maintained,” he said.