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Government Spending Bill Will Prohibit Flying Pride Flags at Embassies

“LGBTQ+ rights should be nonnegotiable,” said LGBTQ legislative researcher Allison Chapman.

As part of a $1.2 trillion government funding deal President Joe Biden signed on Saturday that will keep the majority of U.S. government agencies open until September 30, LGBTQ pride flags will be banned from being flown at U.S. embassies.

If lawmakers didn’t pass a funding bill by March 1, it would have triggered a partial government shutdown, with a full government shutdown occurring on March 8.

The bill says that no U.S. funding can be used to “fly or display a flag over a facility of the United States Department of State” other than U.S. or other government-related flags, or flags supporting prisoners of war, missing-in-action soldiers, hostages and wrongfully detained Americans.

“Pride flags are symbolic. Honestly, there’s a lot of criticism about the ways that orgs and companies and the US Government waves pride flags only to not support LGBTQ+ people,” transgender journalist and activist Erin Reed said on social media. “But when the symbols themselves become a tool for compromise, alarm bells go off.”

According to Reed, Republicans attempted to attach over 40 anti-LGBT provisions to the spending bill as “riders,” including a provision that would have mandated that no hospitals in the country provide gender-affirming care for transgender youth. Additionally in February, the House Freedom Caucus threatened to shut down the government unless Democrats agreed to pass legislation that would restrict gender-affirming care, limit transgender participation in sports, and defund Planned Parenthood.

Despite that threat, 163 Democratic Representatives sent a letter to Biden and Democratic leadership in the House and Senate in November “urging them to reject any funding agreement that includes anti-LGBTQI+ provisions.”

“The anti-LGBTQI+ provisions in the House appropriations bills are part of a larger coordinated effort to restrict the rights of LGBTQI+ people. As members of Congress, we stand with our LGBTQI+ constituents and the larger LGBTQI+ community. They deserve to have their rights protected — not restricted or eliminated,” the letter said.

The Biden administration condemned the anti-LGBTQ riders proposed by Republicans, saying that the president “is committed to fighting for LGBTQI+ equality at home and abroad.”

“President Biden believes it was inappropriate to abuse the process that was essential to keep the government open by including this policy targeting LGBTQI+ Americans,” a White House spokesperson said in a statement. “While it will have no impact on the ability of members of the LGBTQI+ community to serve openly in our embassies or to to celebrate Pride, the Administration fought against the inclusion of this policy and will continue to work with members of Congress to find an opportunity to repeal it.”

LGBTQ advocates breathed a sigh of relief as Democrats refused to collaborate with Republicans on the most egregious anti-LGBT measures. However, they also condemned that the pride flag provision made it into law, noting that it could set a precedent for more hostile negotiations against LGBTQ people in the future.

“While I disagree with the pride flag ban, compared to the possible outcomes with the over 50 anti-LGBTQ+ riders proposed I’m thrilled that this is the only one that was included,” legislative researcher Allison Chapman told Truthout. “I was prepared for and expecting much worse scenarios that this and for that I’m grateful.”

“With that said, Biden and elected officials do need to understand that this is hurtful for the queer community and LGBTQ+ rights should be nonnegotiable,” Chapman continued.

Far right legislators such as Marjorie Taylor Greene (R) lamented that the worst anti-LGBT measures did not make it into the final spending bill.

In February, Reed anticipated that, “Should Republican leadership proceed without any of the anti-trans policy riders, many Republican voters will likely vote against the bill, and Speaker Johnson could see his own speakership threatened. Until the 2024 general elections, the riders represent the largest risk for transgender people and their care nationwide.”

As anticipated by Reed, Taylor Greene has taken action to oust Speaker Mike Johnson due to the spending bill.

“They want to shut down the government over trans people. They are going to try to vacate the house speaker, an Alliance Defending Freedom alumni I might add, over trans people.” Reed wrote on social media. “We are hurling towards a very, very precarious moment this year. So much is at stake.”

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