NASHVILLE — U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Sherwood, has become the fourth Chattanooga area member of Congress to sign on as a co-sponsor of a House bill to bar flying LGBTQ and Black Lives Matter flags or any other banner besides the American flag at U.S. embassies and consular posts.
House records show DesJarlais signed onto H.B. 85, titled the "Old Glory Only Act," on Friday.
"The American flag is the only flag that should be flown at any United States embassy because it is representative of every single citizen of our great nation," DesJarlais' office said in a statement to the Times Free Press when asked about it Monday.
The bill, which now has 30 co-sponsors, was introduced in January by Rep. Jeff Hunter, R-S.C. Given Democrats' control in the House, passage is seen as highly unlikely, but it's still making national headlines with several new GOP members signing on in May and June.
LGBTQ Pride Month is in June.
President Joe Biden's Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, in April issued blanket authorization for U.S. embassies and consultants to fly the rainbow-colored Pride flag.
U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome, signed onto the measure in February, stating it would "prevent Hate America flags." Two Alabama Republicans, Robert Aderholt and Mo Brooks, have also signed on as co-sponsors.
U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, an Ooltewah Republican, has not signed up as a bill co-sponsor. His office did not respond to a Times Free Press inquiry.
During an appearance last week on Newsmax, Greene told host Greg Kelly the American flag "represents every single American. We don't need political identity politics. We don't need the Democrat Party making one group more important than the other."
Greene said "the only flag that should fly over any of our U.S. embassies, over any of our federal buildings is Old Glory, the beautiful stars and stripes, and that's why I'm so proud of this bill and very happy to be a co-sponsor."
Calling the Black Lives Matter group a "domestic terrorist organization," Greene said "that is no flag that should fly over any of our government buildings."
In response to another question, Greene said, "the LGBTQ flag, that's not a flag that needs to be flown over any of our buildings either."
Chris Sanders, executive of the pro-LGBTQ Tennessee Equality Project, said the Republican bill is "squarely aimed at preventing the flying of Pride and Black Lives Matter flags."
Sanders said flying the flags "in no way diminishes the American flag. In fact, it can be a way of showing the world that America is striving to realize our inclusive values."
Denmark and other U.S. allies "have flown Pride flags at their embassies and they don't view the practice as challenging the devotion they feel to their national flag," Sanders added.
Blinken's action allowed U.S. diplomatic outposts around the globe to fly the Pride flag on the same flagpole as the U.S. flag at their embassy or consulate to show support for LGBTQ rights. That was a departure from the policy of his Republican predecessor, Mike Pompeo.
Last week, the White House stated in a fact sheet the move is "demonstrating that the United States will lead on LGBTQI+ human rights around the world."
Pentagon officials said last week the Defense Department would not make any exception to allow U.S. military installations to fly rainbow Pride flags during June, maintaining the Trump administration policy limiting types of flags able to be flown on bases.
Trump did recognize Pride Month in a tweet back in 2019, stating "as we celebrate LGBT Pride Month and recognize the outstanding contributions LGBT people have made to our great Nation, let us also stand in solidarity with the many LGBT people who live in dozens of countries worldwide that punish, imprison, or even execute individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation."
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