By banning rainbow flags at U.S. embassies, Republicans are abetting the murder of LGBTQ people

Republicans recently did something that went almost unnoticed. Through one simple act in 1970, the United States became the world’s leader in making our community visible. Thanks to a Republican amendment in the recently-signed federal budget, a sad end has come to that leadership.

In 1970, we created what we then called Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day — the world’s first Pride. That day, which came from a resolution written by Craig Rodwell and Ellen Broidy, changed not only America but the world.

During that era, probably 99.9 percent of our community was in the closet, and there were fewer than 100 members of the community who would speak out for our rights. Then the Stonewall Riots happened in 1969, and to celebrate its first anniversary and the community we had created in that first year, Rodwell and Broidy proposed what we now call Pride.

During the Obama administration, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggested that ambassadors fly rainbow flags outside our embassies around the world. Soon, embassies of other countries followed suit.

In recent years, that program has increased to the point where you see rainbow flags on embassies every June in places where they imprison or even kill members of our community: They fly the flag in Uganda, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Russia.

I’ve personally witnessed members of our community, in countries where it is illegal to be LGBTQ, walk past the flag and pause. Then I’d see a tear coming down their cheek.

At a London dinner where I was speaking last year, a prince of one of those countries that kills gays came over to me and said that he hoped someday I could come and speak in his country. I asked what would happen if someone today put out a rainbow flag. He sobbed, then voiced his wishes for “hopefully one day.”

Republicans added an amendment to that recent budget measure that basically states that no embassy can fly a rainbow flag. In doing so, they have taken away the hope of freedom from oppressed LGBTQ people — whether in Moscow, Hungary, Abu Dhabi, Gaza or Iran.

There are 65 countries that criminalize same-sex activity and 12 that impose the death sentence for it. Fourteen countries criminalize gender identity, and we’re not even discussing honor killings or rape.

According to the text, “None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be obligated or expended to fly or display a flag over a facility of the United States Department of State.” There’s a list of exceptions, and surprisingly, the rainbow flag is not included.

We invented the idea of Pride, which was meant to end our invisibility in society. Later, the rainbow flag became a symbol of that message universal, taking Pride even into places where it was dangerous.

Pride may have been founded in 1970 in the U.S. by a few thousand, but today it is international. And millions come out around the world to celebrate Pride.

The Republicans are now abetting those countries that kill members of our community. But why should we expect humanity from the Republicans? They don’t care about the health of women; they don’t believe in voting rights, and they call immigrants murderers.

With this amendment, they assist those countries that imprison and kill LGBTQ people. Republicans have blood on their hands.

Mark Segal founder and publisher of Philadelphia Gay News and has won numerous journalism awards for his column “Mark My Words,” including best column by The National Newspaper Association, The Society of Professional Journalists and Suburban Newspaper Association.