US State Department flies LGBT+ Pride flag in historic first

Progress Pride flag at the US State Department

The US State Department flew the Progress Pride flag for the first time at its Washington, DC headquarters to celebrate Pride month.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced last week that the department would hold a flag-raising ceremony over the weekend and display the flag as “a symbol of the diversity and intersectionality of LGBTQI+ persons and communities around the world”.

He added on Twitter: “I’m truly honoured to serve as secretary during this historic moment.”

The Progress Pride flag was on Friday (25 June). Deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman spoke at the event, praising the department’s gesture “demonstrating to people everywhere that the United States is committed to fighting for LGBTQI+ rights at home and abroad”.

Chief diversity and inclusion officer ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, and the president of GLIFAA, which represents LGBT+ staff in the State Department and other agencies, Jeff Anderson, also spoke at the event.

Blinken had previously said that the flying of the Pride flag “marks a couple of important turning points in our history for LGBTQI rights”.

Saturday (26 June) marked the anniversary of the Obergefell v Hodges Supreme Court decision in 2015, which made equal marriage the law of the land across the US.

The flag flew until Sunday (28 June), which was the 52nd anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in 1969.

Blinken said that there would be a “broader” announcement made by the administration soon emphasising its commitment to “a workforce of talented people that reflect the true diversity of our country”.

The Trump administration previously banned Pride flags from US embassies and other public buildings.

There were previously a number of bans in place, brought in by Donald Trump, on government and public buildings flying the Pride flag, among other banners, including those for the Black Lives Matter movement.

Blinken officially approved US embassies to fly the Pride flag on the same pole as the US flag earlier this year.

However, a new Republican-backed bill called the Stars and Stripes Act of 2021 is seeking to restore the ban, calling other flags “inherently political”.

While US embassies still have to seek written approval from the State Department to fly non-US flags, this is now no longer required for LGBT+ Pride flags.

Previously, embassies attempted to get around the ban by displaying Pride flags, but not on the official flagpoles, instead decorating their buildings and flying them out of windows.

Other US public buildings have chosen to “maintain” the Pride flag ban, including the Pentagon.