On Friday, Republican Reps. Nicole Malliotakis (NY), Ken Buck (CO), Michael Guest (MS), Darrell Issa (CA), Brian Mast (FL), and Pete Sessions (TX), as well as the new House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (NY), introduced the Stars and Stripes Act of 2021. The legislation, according to a press release, "directs the Secretary of State to restrict the display of certain flags or banners at diplomatic and consular posts around the world."
Believe it or not, such legislation is necessary, considering the current Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has authorized and even encouraged all U.S. embassies overseas to fly the 'Black Lives Matter' flag. Such a directive was to commemorate the anniversary of the death of George Floyd, which was just a few days before the legislation was introduced, as Jack Posobiec reported for Human Events, citing a leaked memo.
Not only that, but as Jon Levine with The New York Post reported, "The BLM flag flown at the Athens embassy was reportedly so enormous it covered the United States seal."
The BLM flag isn't the only political flag Sec. Blinken has encouraged U.S. embassies to fly. Foreign Policy magazine first reported last month that Blinken gave "blanket authorization" for embassies to fly the LGBT rainbow pride flag, reversing a move from then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who served under President Trump. Sec. Pompeo directed that no other flags would fly on the same pole as the U.S. flag.
As FP reported:
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has issued a blanket authorization for U.S. diplomatic outposts around the world to fly the Pride flag on the same flagpole as the U.S. flag at their embassy or consulate showcasing support for LGBTQ rights. The directive marks a departure from how the Trump administration handled the matter while the State Department was run by former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
In a confidential cable reviewed by Foreign Policy and sent to diplomatic posts around the world, Blinken gave authority for diplomats to fly the Pride flag before May 17, which marks the international day against homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia, as well as June, which in the United States and many other countries is Pride month.
The cable contained a hedge, though, saying the authorization is not a requirement and chiefs of mission who run each embassy or consulate can choose whether to fly the Pride flag or showcase other symbols connoting support for LGBTQ rights based on what is “appropriate in light of local conditions.”Flying the Pride flag at U.S. embassies became a point of contention during the Trump era, when, under Pompeo, the State Department blocked embassies’ requests to fly the flag on the same flagpole as the U.S. banner. Diplomats were told they could display Pride symbols elsewhere in embassies.
The internal State Department cable also noted that in some countries, a U.S. embassy flying the Pride flag, or discussing legalizing or decriminalizing same-sex relationships, could do more harm than good. Such measures could fuel a backlash against local LGBTQ communities themselves.
“Posts should support efforts to repeal [criminalization] legislation, while ensuring that ‘do no harm’ remains our overarching principle so U.S. efforts do not inadvertently result in backlash or further marginalization of the LGBTQI+ community,” the cable read.
Reports on such decisions from Sec. Blinken, such as from FP and Pranshu Verma for The New York Times frame it as the Biden administration being more favorable to LGBT rights, and portray it as a contrast to the Trump administration.
However, as FP noted, "Diplomats were told they could display Pride symbols elsewhere in embassies."
Statements from the Republicans who introduced such legislation reflect what it was about under Sec. Pompeo with the Trump administration, and how it should remain.
From the press release announcing the legislation:
"It is inappropriate for President Biden and Secretary Blinken to authorize and encourage the display of inherently political flags that are in no way affiliated with the U.S. Government over American embassies overseas," said Congresswoman Malliotakis. "The American flag is a beacon of freedom and hope for oppressed peoples around the world; it should be the primary flag flown above our embassies and that is what my legislation seeks to accomplish. The Administration's directive is an insult to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our flag and our nation - especially as we head into Memorial Day weekend - and it is absolutely ridiculous that legislation is needed to correct this issue."
“Our beautiful American flag should fly over our U.S. embassies around the world - not the flag of a political organization founded by Marxists," said House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik. "I am proud to co-sponsor this legislation introduced by my colleague and friend Congresswoman Malliotakis."
“The death of George Floyd opened important discussions surrounding police reform in the United States. However, using United States resources to display a non-government organization flag over United States embassies is not permissible," said Congressman Guest."I encourage every American to exercise their First Amendment right to free speech and to continue civil dialogue around this matter. However, these discussions should not be aired out on an international stage. Our country’s resources should be used to highlight our unity, not our political divisions.”
“The White House may think the American flag is just another banner to be displayed or replaced in foreign capitals when the mood strikes," said Congressman Issa. "But this is more than untrue. It’s an emphatic misunderstanding of what this nation represents in every corner of the globe. And it fails to appreciate how our country’s symbols have sustained the hopes of the world in the darkest of hours. This legislation may be necessary, but even more important is for the Biden Administration to take stock of America’s exceptionalism.”
“The American flag is a physical representation of our nation's history and intrinsic principles," said Congressman Sessions. "It is a symbol of hope and opportunity. The only flag that should characterize the United States of America at our embassies overseas is Old Glory. Political flags have no place in exemplifying our nation abroad."
The press release also includes a link to the bill.