With a few taps of his fingers, President Trump made history with a May 31 message on Twitter: "As we celebrate LGBT Pride Month and recognize the outstanding contributions LGBT people have made to our great Nation, let us also stand in solidarity with the many LGBT people who live in dozens of countries worldwide that punish, imprison, or even execute individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation."
It was the eve of a month that commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, which marked the start of the contemporary gay rights movement in the United States.
Trump added: "My Administration has launched a global campaign to decriminalize homosexuality and invite all nations to join us in this effort!"
The announcement was twofold in significance. One, it marked the first time in the history of the United States that a sitting Republican president formally recognized Pride Month. Secondly, it reaffirmed the unprecedented campaign his State Department has waged to end the cruel custom of criminalizing homosexuality, a practice still embraced by barbaric nations around the world.
Without a doubt, Trump is the most pro-gay Republican president in American history. He is also the first president from either political party to enter the White House while supporting same-sex marriage, and he has made a bold commitment to eradicate HIV domestically by 2030. Taking all of this into account, Trump is situated to become the most pro-gay president ever.
Of course, there is still time for Pompeo to change course on this nonsensical policy. Here’s to hoping he does.
Considering this context, the State Department's order to embassies around the globe not to fly the gay pride flag is perplexing. It's an unforced error that generates unnecessary ill will in the gay community — in addition to the everyday Americans who President Trump will need in order to win re-election next year.
With the number of Americans who support gay individuals trending upward, the State Department's decision could have drastic consequences at the ballot box for our country’s commander-in-chief.
Make no mistake: the responsibility for this decision ultimately rests with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Even worse: this is not a matter of undoing some Obama-era standard. It marks a categorical reversal of Trump administration policies.
"The United States joins people around the world in celebrating Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex (LGBTI) Pride Month, and reaffirms its commitment to protecting and defending the human rights of all, including LGBTI persons," Pompeo said in an official statement commemorating Pride Month last year.
Days later, United States embassies around the world raised the rainbow flag in a symbolic echo affirming Pompeo’s very words — without incident or controversy. The flags did not fly in lieu of Old Glory, nor did they fly above the Stars and Stripes; it was a simple gesture expressing solidarity with gay people around the world, many of whom face threats of death simply because of who they are.
Simple gestures can be powerful things: Just this week, Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif publicly affirmed his country’s practice of executing gay people.
Secretary Pompeo’s reversal of United States embassy policy regarding the gay pride flag telegraphs mixed messages to terrorist regimes such as Iran and muddies the diplomatic waters at a time when American leadership on gay human rights issues should be paramount.
Of course, there is still time for Secretary Pompeo to change course on this nonsensical policy, and here’s to hoping he does — President Trump is none too fond of cabinet secretaries who insist on disregarding his leadership and doing things their way instead.