The review comes as Pride Month is being celebrated throughout June. If changes are made to the current policy it could open the door to allowing the rainbow Pride flag to be displayed. But a senior defense official strongly cautioned no decisions have been made because any change could result in any number of cause-related flags and symbols being displayed on military installations. “This goes beyond the issue of the Pride flag,” the official said.
“The truth is we haven’t resolved it yet,” the official said about any potential changes. The discussions involve Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s legal staff. Austin is aware of the matter, the official said.
The current policy, put in place last July by former Trump appointed Defense Secretary Mark Esper, was part of an effort to ban the display of the Confederate flag and other potential hate symbols on bases in the midst of last summer’s racial tension.
But rescinding the limit could also lead to a host of other problems for the Pentagon, with defense officials privately cautioning that changing the policy could allow for other flags and depictions being displayed.
One potential way around that could be tailoring any policy change to apply specifically to the rainbow flag, a move the State Department made in April, when Secretary of State Antony Blinken issued a blanket authorization for US diplomatic outposts to fly the rainbow flag on the same flagpole as the US flag at their embassy or consulate.
It’s unclear whether any policy review by the Pentagon would address questions of whether Black Lives Matters flags would be allowed to be publicly displayed on bases.
Last summer military service chiefs moved to ban the Confederate flag from bases. Esper stepped in to ensure a policy that banned that flag and would also minimize any interference from President Donald Trump who at the time was publicly opposing Army efforts to rename bases and facilities named for Confederate generals and personnel.
“The flags we fly must accord with the military imperatives of good order and discipline, treating all our people with dignity and respect, and rejecting divisive symbols,” Esper said at the time.
Esper’s July 2020 memo listed specific flags that were approved for display on bases. The flags listed included the American flag and the POW/MIA flag which are widely displayed. The memo also permitted the displaying of the flags of US allies, military services and the most senior officers.
The memo banned all other flags including the Confederate flag and rainbow flag, though it did not specifically list any that are not permitted.
The Defense Department held its first LGBTQ Pride month event at the Pentagon in 2012. Several defense officials say the services will do so again this year.