Fact Check

Pride Flags Banned at US Embassies Under $1.2T Spending Bill Signed by Biden in March 2024?

The provision can be found on the 1,000th page of a 1,012-page bill.

Published March 27, 2024

 (Tesos Katopodis / Getty Images)
Image Via Tesos Katopodis / Getty Images
Claim:
The $1.2 trillion spending bill signed into law by Biden on March 23, 2024, included a provision that effectively banned the flying of pride flags over U.S. embassies.

When the $1.2 trillion spending bill preventing a government shutdown arrived on U.S. President Joe Biden's desk, it was already after the midnight deadline on March 23, 2024, so he signed it without delay.

On the 1,000th page of the 1,012-page bill, however, a clause listed the different flags permitted to be flown "over a facility of the United States Department of State." LGBTQ+ pride flags were not on the list:

(b) None of the funds appropriated or otherwise 20 made available by this Act may be obligated or expended to fly or display a flag over a facility of the United States 22 Department of State other than the— 

(1) United States flag;

(2) Foreign Service flag pursuant to 2 FAM 154.2–1;

(3) POW/MIA flag;

(4) Hostage and Wrongful Detainee flag, pursuant to section 904 of title 36, United States Code;

(5) flag of a State, insular area, or the District of Columbia at domestic locations;

(6) flag of an Indian Tribal government;

(7) official branded flag of a United States agency; or

(8) sovereign flag of other countries.

This clause's immediate effect is to effectively ban pride flags at U.S. embassies. The news was shared across the spectrum of political bias, from the (right-leaning) New York Post to the (left-leaning) Daily Beast.

According to a White House spokesperson who talked to Bloomberg, the Biden administration thought the exclusion of pride flags "abuse[d] the process that was essential to keep the government open" and unfairly targeted LGBTQ+ Americans. The spokesperson added that the administration will fight to repeal the policy.

The spokesperson claimed that the administration had shot down more than 50 other potential policies attached to the bill "attacking the LBGTQI+ community," according to CNN. That same report claimed that Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, a Republican from Louisiana, called the policy's inclusion a victory in a closed-door meeting with Republican lawmakers on March 20.

The House of Representatives passed the bill about 13 hours before the final deadline by a margin of 286-134. One hundred twelve Republicans and 22 Democrats voted against the bill before it headed to the Senate. There, the bill passed 74-24 just after the midnight deadline. One Democrat, 22 Republicans and Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders voted against the spending bill. Two Republicans did not vote.

But the conversation about the flag provision present in the bill is not yet over. If the words "fly or display a flag over a facility" is taken to apply to the main flagpole of the embassy and nothing else, then pride flags could likely still be flown on, in front of or inside of the embassy, since they are not "over" the building.

"The flag provision would continue to allow pride flags to be present in almost all cases at embassies, except flown *over* the exterior of the building. It doesn't limit a flag on, in front of, inside, at workspaces, etc," Human Rights Campaign spokesperson Brandon Wolf said in a statement posted on X.

Sources

"Biden Agrees to Ban LGBTQ Pride Flags at US Embassies." Bloomberg.Com, 21 Mar. 2024. www.bloomberg.com, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2024-03-21/lgbtq-pride-flags-banned-at-us-embassies-in-1-2t-spending-plan-backed-by-biden.

"Biden Signs the $1.2 Trillion Government Funding Bill." NBC News, 23 Mar. 2024, https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/congress/us-government-partial-government-shutdown-deadline-funding-midnight-rcna144746.

"Biden Views LGBTQ Flag Restriction as Abusive, White House Says." Bloomberg.Com, 23 Mar. 2024. www.bloomberg.com, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2024-03-23/biden-views-lgbtq-flag-restriction-as-abusive-white-house-says.

"Bipartisan Spending Bill Includes Effective Ban on Pride Flags over U.S. Embassies." NBC News, 23 Mar. 2024, https://www.nbcnews.com/nbc-out/out-politics-and-policy/pride-flag-ban-us-embassies-government-shutdown-deal-rcna144647.

Ciscomani, Juan. Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2024. H.R. 2882, https://www.congress.gov/bill/118th-congress/house-bill/2882/text?s=2&r=1.

CNN, By Shania Shelton, Elise Hammond, Kaanita Iyer and Piper Hudspeth Blackburn. "JUST IN: House Approves Funding Bill Ahead of Critical Shutdown Deadline." CNN, 22 Mar. 2024, https://www.cnn.com/politics/live-news/federal-government-shutdown-03-22-24/h_e5a388d0fe137935ce88add9200f8d89.

DocumentCloud. https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/24490733-bill-text-of-12-trillion-government-funding-package. Accessed 27 Mar. 2024.

Fossum, Sam. "White House Criticizes GOP over Funding Provision That Effectively Bans Pride Flags over US Embassies | CNN Politics." CNN, 24 Mar. 2024, https://www.cnn.com/2024/03/24/politics/pride-flag-us-embassies/index.html.

"Https://Twitter.Com/Nypost/Status/1771949842471719026." X (Formerly Twitter), https://twitter.com/nypost/status/1771949842471719026. Accessed 27 Mar. 2024.

McDougall, A. J. "Johnson Brags Secretive Spending Deal Includes Embassy Pride Flag Ban: Report." The Daily Beast, 21 Mar. 2024, https://www.thedailybeast.com/mike-johnson-brags-secretive-dollar1t-spending-deal-includes-embassy-pride-flag-ban.

Nassau, U. S. Embassy. "U.S. Embassy Flies Pride Flag for Month of June." U.S. Embassy in The Bahamas, 1 June 2021, https://bs.usembassy.gov/u-s-embassy-flies-pride-flag-for-month-of-june/.

U.S. Senate: U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 118th Congress - 2nd Session. https://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_votes/vote1182/vote_118_2_00114.htm#position. Accessed 27 Mar. 2024.

Washington, U. S. Capitol Room H154, and DC 20515-6601 p:225-7000. "Roll Call 102 Roll Call 102, Bill Number: H. Res. 1102, 118th Congress, 2nd Session." Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives, 22 Mar. 2024, https://clerk.house.gov/Votes/2024102.

Jack Izzo is a Chicago-based journalist and two-time "Jeopardy!" alumnus.