Fact Check

Was a Pride Flag Hung Between American Flags at the White House?

A corner of social media accused the White House of violating federal guidelines governing American flags with the alleged display.

Published Jun 12, 2023

 (Brendan Smialowski/Contributor, Getty Images)
Image Via Brendan Smialowski/Contributor, Getty Images
On June 10, 2023, a Pride flag was hung between two American flags at the White House.

On June 10, 2023, social media users shared photographs of a Pride flag draped vertically from the South Portico of the White House between two American flags. Some of these social media posts claimed that the configuration of the flags violated the U.S. Flag Code:

At the time of publication, those two tweets collectively boasted more than 100,000 likes and 10 million views. We found similar posts on TikTok, Facebook, and Reddit.

The variant of the Pride flag seen in the photographs, known as the progress Pride flag, was indeed hung between two American flags at the White House during a Pride Month celebration on June 10, 2023. The flag includes black, brown, blue, pink, and white stripes on a traditional Pride flag to represent people of color, as well as the transgender community.

We found pictures of the flag display on Getty Images and the Associated Press (AP)'s photo hub. Reputable news publications like AP News and CNN also published photos of the flags in stories about the event. 

As for the claim that the configuration violated U.S. Flag Code, there was no shortage of opinions among social media users — both for and against the notion based on various interpretations of the guidelines. Some pointed out that, in some photographs, a third American flag could be seen flying from a staff on the highest point of the portico. 

american flag on white house (@AriDrennen/Twitter) 

Among users who believed a violation occurred, some stressed that the code explicitly stated, "The flag of the United States of America should be at the center and at the highest point of the group when a number of flags... are grouped and displayed." However, others said that interpretation omitted important details in the code's language (in bold text below): 

(e)The flag of the United States of America should be at the center and at the highest point of the group when a number of flags of States or localities or pennants of societies are grouped and displayed from staffs

According to Forbes, no violation had occurred. In addition to citing the above-transcribed section of U.S. Flag Code, the publication pointed out a section that grants the President authority to alter U.S. flag rules, or customs, when it comes to displays. "As president, Joe Biden is also commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the United States, and it was therefore within his rights to display the flags for Saturday's event as he saw fit," Forbes wrote.

In any case, although it's true that the U.S. Flag Code enshrines instructions for the proper display of the American flag, according to a 2019 FAQ about flag law from the Congressional Research Service, its provisions are "declaratory and advisory only": 

Most of the flag code contains no explicit enforcement mechanisms, and relevant case law would suggest that provisions without enforcement mechanisms are declaratory and advisory only. Efforts by states to punish either verbal flag disparagement or disrespectful flag display ("flag-misuse laws") have been struck down under First Amendment free speech precepts that apply to the states through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. 


AP. https://newsroom.ap.org/editorial-photos-videos/search?query=white%20house%20pride%20flag&mediaType=photo&st=keyword. Accessed 12 June 2023.

---. https://newsroom.ap.org/editorial-photos-videos/search?query=Manuel%20Balce%20Ceneta&mediaType=photo&st=keyword. Accessed 12 June 2023.

Fossum , Sam, and Iyer, Kaanita. "Biden Lauds 'Extraordinary' Courage of LGBTQ Americans at White House Pride Event." CNN, CNN, 10 June 2023, www.cnn.com/2023/06/10/politics/white-house-biden-pride-event/index.html.

Hudson, David. "White House Hangs Rainbow Flag between the Stars and Stripes, and Right-Wingers Are Mad." Queerty, 12 June 2023, https://www.queerty.com/white-house-hangs-rainbow-flag-between-the-stars-and-stripes-and-right-wingers-are-mad-20230612.

Madhani, Aamer. "Biden Marks LGBTQ+ Pride Month with Celebration on White House South Lawn." AP News, 10 June 2023, https://apnews.com/article/biden-white-house-pride-month-celebration-108f336660b46cb807dc8d1eea8ac2dc.

Mulroy, Clare. "Pride Month Is Here: Learn What the Origin Story and Colors of the Progress Pride Flag." USA TODAY, https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/2023/04/28/progress-philly-pride-flag-colors-explained/11658513002/. Accessed 12 June 2023.

"Pride Flag Is Displayed during a Pride Celebration on the South Lawn..." Getty Images, https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/news-photo/pride-flag-is-displayed-during-a-pride-celebration-on-the-news-photo/1258590311. Accessed 12 June 2023.

Izz Scott LaMagdeleine is a fact-checker for Snopes.