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Move to bar rainbow flags outside US embassies was ‘right decision,’ Pence says

Vice President Mike Pence speaks in York, Pa., Thursday, June 6, 2019.

MATT ROURKE/AP

By FELICIA SONMEZ AND CAROL MORELLO | The Washington Post | Published: June 11, 2019

WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence on Monday defended the Trump administration's barring of rainbow flags from being flown on flagpoles outside U.S. embassies during LGBT Pride Month, calling it "the right decision."

Pence made the remarks in an interview with NBC News, which first reported on the move last week.

"I'm aware that the State Department indicated that on the flagpole of our American embassies that one flag should fly, and that's the American flag, and I support that," Pence said.

The Obama administration's Pride Month guidelines included rules for flying rainbow flags from poles outside embassies - they had to be smaller than the American flag and fly beneath it. But permission was granted with no fuss. By 2016, approvals were left up to each ambassador or chief of mission.

That changed last year, after Mike Pompeo became secretary of state. An advisory cable said diplomats are required to obtain top-level approval from the State Department's Office of Management to fly a rainbow flag.

Embassies in countries — including Israel, Germany, Brazil and Latvia — this year asked to fly rainbow flags. All were denied, a person at the State Department who was familiar with the matter told The Washington Post.

Some U.S. diplomats have been finding ways to get around the new policy in recent weeks, including by displaying large rainbow flags on building facades or bathing embassies in rainbow-colored lights.

State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told reporters Monday that "there's no violation" of Trump administration policy, so long as the rainbow flag is not flown on the same flagpole as the American flag.

President Donald Trump recently tweeted in commemoration of LGBT Pride Month, prompting some to argue that his administration is sending mixed messages to the LGBT community.

Asked about Trump's tweet, Pence told NBC News on Monday that he and the president are "proud to be able to serve every American; we both feel that way very passionately."

"But when it comes to the American flagpole, and American embassies and capitals around the world, one American flag flies," he added. "I think it's the right decision, and we put no restrictions on displaying any other flags or any other displays at our embassies beyond that."
 

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