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House Republicans and Democrats Clash over Pride Flag Displays at VA Facilities

House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman argued veterans deserve an 'apolitical' experience

Republicans in the House of Representatives are pushing to ban the display of Pride flags in Veteran Affairs facilities while negotiating the latest military appropriation bill.

This year’s Pride Month – an annual recognition of LGBTQ people and issues – has been marked by debate over public and corporate displays of Pride Flags and gender ideology.

House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Mike Bost of Illinois and 30 other Republicans co-signed a letter to VA Secretary Denis McDonough on June 6 objecting to the display of Pride Flags at VA facilities. The lawmaker questioned whether the displays were an “appropriate use of taxpayer funding” and how “this flag impacts other symbols of our nation.”

The lawmakers noted it is a violation of VA policy to display “as a means for political activity or to promote any particular viewpoint or ideology” in military cemeteries. 

“I am sure you would agree with us that the Pride flag is viewed by many, including numerous veterans our offices have engaged with as a political symbol reflective of a social movement and represents only one group of Americans,” wrote Bost. “Veterans who have served our country deserve to enter a facility that is free from discrimination and political posturing. These men and women were apolitical when they served our country, and we should strive to provide them with an apolitical VA when they seek the care, benefits, and services that they have earned.”

Congressman Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, who chairs the House’s Equality Caucus, said Republicans fear the Pride flag because the item is “too woke.” He opposed amendments in the Fiscal Year 2024 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill that would ban the VA from displaying Pride flags.

“I don’t know if you know it but simply looking at a Pride Flag will not make you gay. So that is not a concern you should have,” he said while speaking before the House Appropriations Committee on June 13. 

The Democrat said the bill did not go far enough to be “anti-woke” and suggested banning screens of NASCAR, professional baseball and any other organizations that have celebrated Pride Month. He sarcastically suggested that there should be a study on military decorations, noting medals come in “beautiful shades of red and orange and yellow and green and blue and purple” which “could be misconstrued by some people.”

“Perhaps we should have something a little more manly. Maybe we give out bullets instead, right, because most mass shootings are done by men,” said Pocan. “The only problem is we can’t give that to women because that might send the wrong message.”

“Look, I get anti-woke but at some point, anti-woke is also anti-sane and we look ridiculous,” he added. He also said that “all this anti-LGBTQI+ stuff that is going on is exactly out of [Russian President] Vladimir Putin’s playbook.”

According to the Air Force Times, approximately 5% of veterans — an estimated 1 million former service members — are gay or bisexual.

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