“We value all members of the DOD [Department of Defense] total force and recognize their immense contributions to the mission,” said Air Force Major Carla Gleason.
A Veteran Affairs Hospital in Fort Wayne, Indiana removed flags for each branch of the military to fly an LGBT+ pride flag.
On a typical day, the VA hospital flies five flags along the entrance sidewalk to represent the five branches of US military: Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard. But on June 12, they took down the flags to hang one rainbow pride flag.
June is celebrated as Pride month worldwide. In the past two years, the White House has not issued a statement regarding June as Pride Month.
Last July, Trump issued a series of tweets stating that transgender people would be barred from joining the United States military. Despite the efforts of LGBT+ rights groups and top military officials, a memorandum released on March 23 said that trans people are “disqualified from military service except under certain limited circumstances”. This is an alteration to Trump’s original blanket ban.
The flying of the pride flag was a way for the VA to show their support for LGBT+ soldiers and veterans.
Service flags were put back up before the end of the business day.
The VA has received harsh criticism for the decision on Twitter and from locals.
One Twitter user said, “Doesn’t this single out to celebrate the non straight variation thereby discriminating against them and breaking the law?”
The VA Northern Indiana Healthcare System issued a statement:
“Logistically, we could not add a flag without removing a flag from the poles outside our VA. Rather than single out one military branch’s flag to be temporarily replaced with the LGBT flag, we chose to remove all of them for one day in order to show our dedication to serving all Veterans equally.”
The US military has a long history of discrimination against LGBT+ serving in the military. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, the law that prohibited gays, bisexuals and lesbians from openly serving in the military without discharge, was repealed in 2011.
By flying the pride flag, the VA is starting to try to break barriers and become more inclusive for current and former military personnel.
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