Out in the World: US Senate confirms Maloney as ambassador; Biden OKs Pride flag ban

  • by Heather Cassell, BAR Contributor
  • Monday March 25, 2024
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Former New York congressman Sean Patrick Maloney was confirmed as the U.S. representative to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which carries the rank of ambassador. Photo: Michael Key/Washington Blade
Former New York congressman Sean Patrick Maloney was confirmed as the U.S. representative to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which carries the rank of ambassador. Photo: Michael Key/Washington Blade

Gay former New York congressmember Sean Patrick Maloney is the new U.S. representative to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which carries the rank of ambassador.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden has approved a ban on embassies flying the rainbow flag during Pride Month as part of the deal to get Congress to approve a government funding bill to avert a federal shutdown.

New ambassador

Maloney is now the eighth openly gay U.S. ambassador. He will succeed Michael Carpenter, the current U.S. ambassador to the OECD, who is also gay, reported the Washington Blade.

The Senate confirmed Maloney 63-31 to lead the OECD March 12.

Last November, gay Seattle resident Roger Nyhus was confirmed as ambassador to Barbados, the Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, the Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. He is the first biracial gay man to serve as ambassador. His mother is Native American and his father is Norwegian American.

Biden currently has the most out LGBTQ ambassadors, 10, serving in U.S. history. Obama had seven LGBTQ ambassadors serving the U.S. during his term, according to the LGBTQ+ Victory Institute, the education arm of the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund, which works to elect out candidates to public office.

Biden nominated Maloney in June 2023, as the Bay Area Reporter previously reported.

The OECD works to build policies with the goal of fostering prosperity, equality, opportunity, and well-being for better lives for all, according to the organization's website.

Maloney and his husband, Randy Florke, will move to Paris, where the OECD is headquartered. They have raised three children — Jesus, Daley, and Essie — together, according to the release and Maloney's campaign website. The children were only identified by their first names.

Maloney, a Democrat, was the first openly LGBTQ person elected to Congress from New York in 2012. He represented the people of the Hudson Valley in the 18th Congressional District for five terms from 2013 to 2023, but lost his seat due to redistricting in 2022. Maloney is the former chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which works to elect Democratic House members.

In 2021, Biden placed LGBTQ rights at the forefront of the United States foreign policy. Standing at a podium, he proudly announced that he strengthened the historic memorandum signed by Obama in 2011 that protects LGBTQ people globally with his own revised memorandum, the B.A.R. previously reported.

Nominating LGBTQ ambassadors has been a slower process. According to the American Foreign Service Association's tracker, there were a total of 195 positions as of March 22. Of those, 33 of Biden's 2022, 2023, and 2024 nominees were entering the Senate confirmation process or are at various levels of Senate confirmation hearings. Of the 33 pending nominations, 31 offices are vacant. Some of those vacant offices are important, such as the International Civil Aviation Organization, the African Union; Colombia, Dominican Republic, and Peru to name a few. Some vacancies are in countries to be expected, such as Afghanistan, Cuba, Syria, and Venezuela.

Democratic and Republican presidents since Clinton have appointed gay men as ambassadors. Biden was the first president to appoint an out lesbian of color, Chantale Wong, ambassador to the U.S. Asian Development Bank, the B.A.R. previously reported. The Senate confirmed Wong in 2022.

There are still no out trans ambassadors.

Pride flag won't fly at US embassies in June

Biden temporarily approved a ban on flying the Pride flag at United States embassies and consulates around the world that was part of the $1.2 trillion government funding bill Congress approved Saturday.

The bill temporarily reverses the State Department's 2021 authorization to raise Pride flags at government buildings, such as embassies and consulates, reported the New York Times. This isn't the first time the Pride flag has been banned from flying at embassies and consulates. Former President Donald Trump, who is the presumed Republican nominee for the 2024 presidential election, banned the Pride flag from flying at embassies and consulates in 2019 during his term in office.

The ban comes three months ahead of Pride Month, which is recognized in June. Many U.S. embassies and consulates have long flown the rainbow flag during June, and on International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia on May 17, reported the South China Morning Post.

According to Forbes, funds will not be used to fly banners other than the American flag and other eligible flags at U.S. State Department facilities until September 30 when the spending bill expires.

U.S. government buildings flying flags other than the U.S. flag and a select few other banners, such as flags commemorating prisoners of war, hostages or wrongful detainees, have sparked controversy over the years, reported SCMP. The newspaper reported flags, such as those recognizing Pride and Black Lives Matter, which have been barred from being flown, are viewed as politically divisive. The Confederate flag is also banned from being flown by any U.S. government building.

There is no ban on embassy officials' personal use of Pride flags, SCMP clarified.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) cited the ban as a victory for Republicans. Johnson tucked the flag prohibition clause into the funding agreement to rally support within his party, reported SCMP, but he faced a backlash similar to his predecessor, former speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-California), who has since left Congress, reported Newsweek.

Obama was the first in the White House to order the Pride flag to be flown at embassies and consulates in 2014.

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

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