Some US embassies fly rainbow flag despite rejected requests from Trump admin

Several U.S. embassies and diplomatic missions around the world are hoisting rainbow flags in honor of Pride Month, despite a slate of rejections from the Trump administration of requests to fly the flag.

The Washington Post reported Saturday that diplomatic missions in Seoul and Chennai, India sent out a press release and a video advertising the flag hanging outside their respective buildings, while the U.S. embassy in New Delhi updated its Twitter cover photo showing a rainbow projected on it.

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The embassy in Santiago, Chile shows a video on its website of a diplomat flying a rainbow flag last month for the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia and the website for the Vienna embassy features a photo of the same flag. 

Several ambassadors and diplomats have also been seen participating in Pride festivities, whether going to parades or celebrating at their embassies.

The sightings come after the State Department reportedly rejected requests from several embassies to fly the rainbow Pride flag on flagpoles this month. Embassies are supposed to obtain permission from Washington to fly the flag, according to State Department policy. 

The State Department and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Hill.

“This is a category one insurrection,” one diplomat told the Post, speaking anonymously out of fear of being fired.

According to the Post, the practice of flying Pride flags was routinely approved for most of the past decade. The State Department under the Obama administration stipulated that rainbow flags must be smaller than and flown below the American flags. By 2016, the Post notes, approvals were left to ambassadors or chiefs of missions.

But now such requests require high-level approval from the State Department. NBC News first reported this week that all such requests to fly the flag were denied this year. An advisory cable was released last year mandating that all missions must obtain clearance from the State Department to fly the flag, but all requests were approved in 2018, two diplomats told The Post.

NBC noted that the State Department denied the request of the U.S. Embassy in Berlin to fly the flag. The embassy is led by U.S. Ambassador Richard Grenell, the most senior openly gay person in Trump’s administration.

“The President’s recognition of Pride Month and his tweet encouraging our decriminalization campaign gives me even more pride to once again march in the Berlin Pride parade, hang a huge banner on the side of the Embassy recognizing our pride, host multiple events at the Embassy and the residence, and fly the gay pride flag,” Grenell said Friday in a statement to the outlet.

Several Foreign Service officers have complained about the cable on a private Facebook Page, according to The Post, and several missions have sought to avoid rankling the administration by posting President TrumpDonald John TrumpO’Rourke hammers Trump on tariffs: The damage ‘has already been done’ O’Rourke hammers Trump on tariffs: The damage ‘has already been done’ Schumer mocks Trump: ‘I’m sure we won’t be hearing any more’ about illegal immigration MORE’s past statement affirming LGBT rights.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTrump drops Mexico tariff threat after deal on migrants Trump drops Mexico tariff threat after deal on migrants Pompeo: ‘Lots of ways’ to address climate change MORE has not issued a statement for Pride Month, though he did last year, and has not attended the State Department’s annual Pride Day event during his tenure.

“Day by day, a death by a thousand cuts, our rights as lgbt+ Americans are being eroded with the removal of a guidance here, the rewriting of a policy there, or just the quiet disappearance of a web site,” Robyn McCutcheon, a transgender woman who has served in several diplomatic postings, wrote in her blog “Transgender in State.” “It should come as no surprise that this erosion would happen also at the U.S. Department of State.”

The administration has appointed numerous gay ambassadors, and Trump became the first Republican president to release a statement honoring Pride Month.

The White House, however, has reportedly upset LGBTQ officials with attempts to ban transgender servicemembers from working in the military, leading some to avoid talking about issues affecting their community in public, according to the Post.

“We fly below the radar,” one employee told The Post. “We survive because they don’t realize we’re here.”

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