The United States’ embassy to the Holy See is marking Pride Month by flying a rainbow flag for the first time, a decision that has faced some criticism from Catholic politicians but is very much in keeping with President Joe Biden’s agenda.
The embassy, which is located in Rome and represents the U.S. in diplomatic relations with the Vatican (which is known formally as the Holy See), tweeted a photo of the flag flying on its building, accompanied by the following text:
“The U.S. Embassy to the Holy See celebrates #PrideMonth with the Pride flag on display during the month of June. The United States respects the dignity and equality of LGBTQI+ people. LGBTQI+ rights are human rights.”
This display is not the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See’s first acknowledgement of Pride, however, which happened periodically through social media under both Presidents Obama and Trump. This year, other social media posts were also published that highlighted pro-LGBTQ comments by President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.
Not all were pleased with the embassy’s decision this month. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who is Catholic, retweeted the embassy’s photo, adding the comment, “Call it a just a hunch, but I don’t think you will see this from our embassy in Saudi Arabia.”
Nebraska’s governor, Pete Ricketts, who is also Catholic, likewise criticized the embassy, tweeting, “As a Catholic, I’m curious to know if the Biden-Harris Embassy in the Holy See will promote respect for Catholic teaching on family and freedom of conscience – or whether we can simply expect more political stunts like this.”
It is now possible for Pride flags to be flown at U.S. embassies because Biden reversed restrictions put in place by the Trump administration that had barred such flags at diplomatic posts, according to PinkNews.
Biden himself, who is perhaps the nation’s most high-profile Catholic, issued a proclamation for Pride this year in which he called it “a time to recall the trials. . .and to rejoice in the triumphs” of LGBTQ people in the pursuit for equality.
Noting the executive actions he has taken since January for LGBTQ people, like ensuring federal agencies abide by employment non-discrimination protections, stopping a Trump-era policy that would allow anti-transgender discrimination at shelters for the unhoused, and being the first U.S. president to mark Trans Day of Visibility, Biden acknowledged the work yet to be done:
“For all of our progress, there are many States in which LGBTQ+ individuals still lack protections for fundamental rights and dignity in hospitals, schools, public accommodations, and other spaces. Our Nation continues to witness a tragic spike in violence against transgender women of color. LGBTQ+ individuals — especially youth who defy sex or gender norms — face bullying and harassment in educational settings and are at a disproportionate risk of self-harm and death by suicide. Some States have chosen to actively target transgender youth through discriminatory bills that defy our Nation’s values of inclusivity and freedom for all.”
Vatican officials should consider the U.S. embassy’s display as a moment for dialogue. LGBTQ people still face many challenges, some of which President Biden mentioned, but which also include criminalization in many parts of the world. Pride Month could be an opportunity for the church to affirm, even if only in a limited way, that LGBTQ people’s rights are human rights.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, June 5, 2021