House votes to ban Pentagon from displaying non-approved flags after Pride month controversy

The House voted late Thursday night to prohibit the Defense Department from displaying non-approved flags, just weeks after the Air Force and Navy drew criticism for tweeting out pictures of rainbow banners to celebrate Pride Month.

In a 218-213 vote, the House approved an amendment from Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., that would only allow members of the armed forces to display the American flags and other approved flags.

The amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) says only approved flags can be displayed in the workplace, common access areas or other areas of the Defense Department. Approved flags also include state flags, military service flags and others.

An aide to Norman said that while the Pentagon hasn’t flown a Pride flag – like the White House did in June – some military recruitment videos have shown this flag. And last month, the Navy briefly changed its Twitter banner to show a Pride rainbow, while the Air Force tweeted out a picture showing a silhouetted service member saluting a rainbow in a tweet that said ‘celebrate Pride month.’

The aide said the goal of Norman’s bill is to get ahead of the trend that has seen more and more agencies fly Pride flags. Norman’s language codifies a restriction put in place during the Trump administration that limits what flags can be flown.

During floor debate, Democrats said Norman’s amendment would hurt LGBTQ+ Americans.

‘With this amendment, my Republican colleagues are once again attempting to erase and to censure the LGBTQ+ community in our armed forces and in those workplaces,’ said Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, D-Pa.

‘With this amendment, anti-equality lawmakers are attempting to take up backwards by prohibiting service members and DOD employees from displaying the Pride flag, a symbol of strength and acceptance of the LBGT community,’ she said.

But Norman argued that it’s important for the Pentagon to fly approved flags that reflect the nation, not portions of the nation.

‘Flags mean something,’ he said. ‘Flags we wear on our sleeves, we honor it prominently on parade fields, we carry it in combat, we drape it over the coffins of those who’ve given their lives for this nation.’

Norman’s amendment was one of several that got a vote late Thursday night as the House raced to complete the NDAA this week. Several of those amendments reflected GOP priorities, such as eliminating what they call ‘woke’ programs at the department.

As a result, several Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee said late Thursday they could not vote for the final bill. ‘What was once an example of compromise and functioning government has become an ode to bigotry and ignorance,’ they wrote.

Among the amendments that were approved late Thursday was one from Rep. Elijah Crane, R-Ariz., that would ban DOD from making race-related training a requirement for hiring, promotion or detention.

After a 216-216 tie, the House voted again and narrowly passed another Norman amendment to eliminate all diversity, equity and inclusion offices at DOD. The House also accepted an amendment from Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., to ban DOD from buying pornographic and radical gender ideology books for libraries in DOD schools.

But the House turned away other GOP ideas, including amendments to ban funding for sustainable building materials and expenditures related to electric vehicles.

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