ABC News recently reported that the State Department denied four separate embassies’ requests to fly the rainbow flag on official flagpoles, in celebration of Pride month. According to this report, the American embassies in Brazil, Israel, Germany, and Latvia requested to fly the rainbow flag, and were denied.
This decision from the State Department indicates a willingness to defy President Trump’s agenda. Just a week and half ago, President Trump made history as the first Republican President to officially recognize pride month. In two tweets, he “recognize[d] the outstanding contributions LGBT people have made to our great Nation,” and reaffirmed that his administration had “launched a global campaign to decriminalize homosexuality.”
Just a week and half ago, President Trump made history as the first Republican President to officially recognize pride month.
This is not the first time we have seen executive branch officials defy President Trump. Last year, an anonymous executive branch official wrote a New York Times op-ed where he declared himself “part of the resistance inside the Trump administration.” And more recently, the New York Times revealed that executive branch officials defied President Trump’s order to strip former CIA chief John Brennan of his security clearance. Despite a clear order from President Trump, the attempt to strip Brennan of his clearance apparently “petered out, hampered by aides who slow-rolled the president and by Justice Department officials who fought Mr. Trump.”
It is clear that there are a number of executive branch officials who do not respect President Trump’s authority. But the State Department’s defiance may take the cake. President Trump is easily the most pro-LGBT Republican President ever, and arguably the most pro-LGBT President of any party. Unlike President Obama, who explicitly opposed same-sex marriage when he was elected in 2008, President Trump came into office supporting same-sex marriage, and affirmed the Supreme Court’s holding in Obergefell v. Hodges as “settled law.”
Moreover, President Trump was the first Republican Presidential candidate to have an openly gay speaker at his convention in 16 years: Peter Thiel. And just one week before the 2016 election, the President proudly held up a rainbow flag, with “LGBT For Trump” written on it.
For the State Department to defy the President in this manner is quite strange – and ultimately, the responsibility for this decision falls on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Newsmax reported yesterday that according “to a source familiar with the controversy,” the State Department’s decision was made by Brian Bulatao, the under secretary of state for management. According to the same source, Secretary Pompeo did not make the decision.
Even taking this report as true, Secretary Pompeo looks ridiculous. He is the head of his department; he can overrule his subordinates when they make bad decisions. His failure to overrule Bulatao is itself an endorsement of Bulatao’s decision.
The State Department should stop defying President Trump.
But there’s little reason to take the statement made to Newsmax at face value. A decision overruling four different ambassadors is, in the author’s opinion, unlikely to have been left to an undersecretary. Moreover, it smells of cowardice for the State Department to throw an undersecretary under the bus, and for Secretary Pompeo not to take ownership of his department’s decision.
The State Department should stop defying President Trump. Secretary Pompeo, if he is still loyal to the President, should reverse this decision, and support President Trump’s bold, humane agenda on LGBT rights.
And if he doesn’t, President Trump would be perfectly justified in demanding his resignation.
Will Chamberlain is a lawyer and the publisher of Human Events.