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Pence defends decision to ban Pride flags from flying at U.S. embassies

Pence says no Pride flags at embassies
Pence defends decision against Pride flags at embassies 00:26

Vice President Mike Pence confirmed reports that Pride flags had been banned from U.S. embassies, and expressed his support for the administration's decision. June is Pride Month, and in an interview with NBC's Kristen Welker, the vice president said four embassies' requests to fly rainbow flags, which symbolize LGBTQ pride, were denied.

"I'm aware that the State Department indicated that on the flagpole of our American embassies, one flag should fly, and that's the American flag. And I support that," Pence said. 

Welker pressed him about President Trump's tweet in support of LGBTQ Pride Month, and whether it contradicts the rainbow flag ban. 

"As the president said on the night we were elected, we're proud to be able to serve every American, and we both feel that way very passionately," said Pence, who signed legislation that was widely criticized for enabling anti-gay discrimination when he was governor of Indiana.

"But when it comes to the American flagpole at American embassies and American capitals around the world, having the one American flag fly, I think is the right decision," Pence continued. "And we put no restrictions on displaying any other flags or any other displays at our embassies beyond that."

U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell is among those whose request to fly a Pride flag was rejected, NBC News reported. Grenell, who is openly gay, is also spearheading a campaign to decriminalize homosexuality in countries around the world. The Trump appointee didn't appear to feel any bad blood after his Pride flag was rejected — he publicly wished Pence a happy birthday on Twitter on June 7.

Pence, however, is not considered an ally of the LGBTQ community. Recently, the vice president has clashed with fellow Indiana politician and current presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, who is openly gay. Buttigieg has criticized Pence for his opposition to gay marriage and gay rights, which Pence claims is informed by his Christian faith.

"I don't have a problem with religion, I'm religious too. I have a problem with religion being used as a justification to harm people," Buttigieg said of Pence in April.

Pete Buttigieg criticizes Mike Pence for his stance on gay marriage, cites his own religious beliefs 06:51

In 2015, when both men were serving in Indiana, then-Governor Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a law that allowed people to cite religious reasons for refusing to serve gay people. (After widespread protests and boycotts, the state passed an amendment intended to bar such discrimination.)

The vice president's wife, Karen Pence, also came under fire after taking a job at the Immanuel Christian School in northern Virginia, which bars employees from engaging in homosexual activity and does not condone "transgender identity," according to its employment application. The school also requires a "parent agreement" saying it will not admit students who participate in or condone homosexual activity. 

Several human rights and LGBTQ advocacy groups have spoken out about Vice President Pence's track record and the decision to ban Pride flags from embassies.

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