What an unbelievable coincidence: Just a few weeks after various U.S. embassies around the world hoisted rainbow flags for Pride, Republicans have introduced a bill tp ban pride flags from flying at embassies — along with any other flag other than the American one. This couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the Republican party’s thinly-veiled homophobia or fragile heterosexuality, could it? No, surely not.
Though the bill applies to the flying of any flag, the timing and origin of the bill makes it clear that it’s meant to erase symbols of queer pride. It arrived in Congress just after Pride month ended, and it’s co-sponsored by some of the worst homophobes in Washington.
Among its backers: Louie Gohmert, who once ranted about the dangers of gays in space. Vicky Hartzler, who says that letting gay people marry is like letting three-year-olds drive. Steve King, the Iowa racist who says there are no gays in heaven. Pete Sessions, who said that the Pulse shooting didn’t happen at a gay club.
Its author is Jeff Duncan, who wants special rights for people who deny queer people the freedom to marry. He also posted social media images celebrating Chick-fil-A‘s donations to ex-gay torture camps.
With monsters like these supporting the bill, it’s hard to imagine there’s any other purpose than denying the existence of queer people around the world.
Though the flying of a rainbow may seem like a small gesture, in many countries it’s a deeply meaningful lifeline for marginalized communities. Around the world, many countries still criminalize homosexuality, with authorities kidnapping, abusing and killing queer people; displays of support from countries like the United States show the citizens of those countries reason for hope.
Under President Obama, international initiatives applied pressure on those countries to improve conditions for LGBTQ citizens. Hillary Clinton oversaw sanctions against regressive regimes that abused vulnerable groups, using financial incentives to advocate for human rights.
But under the current administration, those programs are being rolled back. Republican officials have expressed support for countries that kidnap and imprison people over accusations of homosexuality. That includes Vice President Mike Pence, who spoke out against any policy that would promote the legalization of homosexuality abroad.
The exact text of the rainbow flag ban has not yet been released. But if the past is any indication, Republicans won’t be content to stop at trying to ban pride flags — they’ll likely move on to banning people next.
It’s anyone’s guess how embassies would respond to such a policy. Earlier this year, the U.S. ambassador to Germany marched in a Pride parade, surrounded by rainbow flags. Although he works for Donald Trump, that ambassador is a gay man.
How will he react if his boss tells him that he has to ditch the rainbow flag, a symbol of inclusion and pride? What will he say if forced to choose between the queer community and the political machine that lines his pockets? We don’t know — but if Republicans’ behavior in the past is any indication, it’s not hard to guess.