House Republicans this week introduced legislation that would prohibit flags other than the American flag from being flown over U.S. diplomatic and consular posts, after the Biden administration allowed pride flags and Black Lives Matter flags to be flown from U.S. embassies.
The Old Glory Only Act, from Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina, is aimed at pushing back at what Republicans say is the politicization of U.S. embassies by the Biden administration.
“Our beautiful flag, Old Glory, should be the only flag flying and representing our country over our diplomatic and consular posts worldwide,” Duncan said this week. “The American flag is a beacon of liberty, and no other flag or symbol better portrays our shared values than the Stars and Stripes.”
“It is important to ensure that Old Glory only is flown at American embassies to represent our ideals abroad,” he said. A congressional aide said there have been no specific talks yet about passing the bill, but Republicans are optimistic the new GOP leadership will be open to holding a vote in light of broad GOP support for the idea.
The push to fly the rainbow pride flag started in 2014, under the Obama administration. The pride flag has flown over the embassies in more than a dozen countries since then, including Russia, Spain, Sweden and South Korea.
The Black Lives Matter flag has been flown at U.S. embassies in Brazil, Greece, Spain, Bosnia, Cambodia and South Korea, according to Duncan’s office.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo banned the flying of these flags, but that decision was reversed under the Biden administration. In April 2021, Secretary of State Antony Blinken authorized embassies and consulates to fly the rainbow pride flag.
He approved the change just before May 17, the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, and said embassy leaders can make the call on whether flying a pride flag is “appropriate in light of local conditions.”
One month later, Blinken indicated support for allowing embassies to fly Black Lives Matter flags on the anniversary of the death of George Floyd. A leaked memo from the State Department said it “supports the use of the term ‘Black Lives Matter,'” and said it authorizes officials to “display the BLM flag on the external-facing flagpole to any Chiefs of Mission who determine such a display is appropriate in light of local conditions.”
Those decisions led to Republican criticism that flying anything other than the American flag was a political statement that shouldn’t be made by official U.S. embassies.
In 2021, Rep. Nicole Malliotakis of New York proposed similar legislation to ban the use of other flags, and said the Biden administration was allowing the display of “inherently political flags that are in no way affiliated with the U.S. government.”