Out in the World: US embassies to fly Pride flag again

  • by Heather Cassell, BAR Contributor
  • Wednesday April 28, 2021
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The U.S. flag and an LGBTQ pride flag flew on the front facade of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow last June. Photo: Courtesy Tass
The U.S. flag and an LGBTQ pride flag flew on the front facade of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow last June. Photo: Courtesy Tass

In another reversal of the previous administration, U.S. embassies received a cable from Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week containing a "blanket authorization" to raise the Pride flag this year. The announcement came ahead of International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia in May and Pride Month in June.

The cable authorized U.S. missions to display the Pride flag if they choose to do so "on the external-facing flagpole, for the duration of the 2021 Pride season." The cable was sent out early to include IDAHOT, observed May 17.

The cable encouraged missions to develop policy and events for both IDAHOT and Pride Month. "This is an authorization, not a requirement," the cable stated.

Former President Donald Trump's administration banned flying the Pride flag at embassies. South Korea's U.S. embassy in Seoul defied the Trump administration by flying both the rainbow flag and the Black Lives Matter flag, as did some other embassies.

The cable also mentioned reinstating the special envoy for the human rights of LGBTI persons, prioritization of resettling LGBTQ asylum seekers and refugees fleeing persecution, among other key initiatives for LGBTQ rights.

The LGBTI special envoy was created under former President Barack Obama's administration. The Trump administration left the post vacant.

The cable stated it would not advocate for marriage equality abroad as a part of the U.S.'s LGBTQ foreign policy due to concerns of causing harm to some local queer communities, reported ABC News.

ABC News and the New York Times, which both saw a copy of the cable, covered the development April 23. It was first reported by Foreign Policy.

Northern Ireland moves to ban conversion therapy

Northern Ireland leaders become the first in the United Kingdom to move to ban so-called conversion therapy. The country's Assembly voted 59-24 April 20 to prohibit "all forms" of the widely discredited practice of trying to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity.

The nonbinding motion, proposed by Ulster Unionist Assembly members Doug Beattie and John Stewart, argued it is "fundamentally wrong" to view the LGBTQ community as needing a "fix or cure."

An amendment to protect churches brought forth by Democratic Union Party members Robin Newton and Pam Cameron was voted down 59-28 the same day.

The United Nations, along with medical associations in the United States, U.K., and elsewhere, has debunked conversion therapy and called for the practice to be banned. Some governments, such as Germany, have heeded the call, prohibiting the practice in 2020.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced plans to ban conversion therapy last July; however, last month three members of the LGBT Advisory Panel accused the Tory administration of dragging its feet introducing the promised legislation and quit.

On April 13, Liz Truss, minister for women and equalities, disbanded the panel that was set up by former Prime Minister Theresa May to advise ministers on LGBTQ issues and policies as a part of the U.K.'s LGBT Action Plan. The panel was set to expire March 31, but some members expected for it to be renewed to continue working with the government on behalf of the LGBTQ community.

In the letter sent to the panel members, seen only by the BBC, Truss wrote, "I am pressing ahead with our commitment to ban conversion therapy in order to protect LGBT people from these abhorrent practices. I look forward to announcing these measures shortly."

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's first minister and leader of the Scottish National Party, vowed to have the Scottish government take up banning conversion therapy if the U.K. did not act, reported The Tab. Her pledge was supported by Lorena Slater, co-leader of the Scottish Greens.

Northern Ireland's Minister for Children Roderic O'Gorman recently asked officials in the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth to prepare a scoping paper to ban the practice, reported the Irish Central. Earlier this month, he set up a new cross-party all-Ireland coalition to ban conversion therapy.

The coalition's effort is Ireland's second attempt to ban conversion therapy. Sinn Fein Senator Fintan Warfield's 2018 bill was co-signed by 20 senators but only reached the committee stage in Ireland's senate, reported the newspaper.

Legislation to ban conversion therapy needs to be brought forward to lawmakers by Sinn Fein Communities Minister and South Belfast Member of the Legislative Assembly Deirdre Hargey.

Following the vote, Hargey, who voted in favor of banning conversion therapy, said the practice "has no place in society," and was committed to bringing the legislation forward in an April 20 statement issued by the Department for Communities.

She did not state when the legislation would be introduced in the Senate, but Pink News reported officials were currently researching how to implement the ban on conversion therapy.

First Minister Arlene Foster, along with Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill, will meet with the country's LGBTQ community within the coming weeks, the Northern Ireland Executive Office confirmed April 22, Pink News reported. It will be the first time a first minister has met with the country's LGBTQ community leaders.

Got international LGBTQ news tips? Call or send them to Heather Cassell at WhatsApp: 415-517-7239, Skype: heather.cassell, or [email protected]

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