Within weeks of being confirmed as former President Donald Trump’s first interior secretary, Ryan Zinke revived an obscure military tradition, insisting that a security staffer raise and lower a special secretarial flag above the agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., every time Zinke entered or exited the building.
Deb Haaland, President Joe Biden’s interior secretary, has opted for a far more inclusive approach. On Monday, Haaland went to the building’s roof to raise a Progress Pride Flag to mark LGBTQ Pride Month. It is the first Pride flag ever to fly above the agency’s headquarters.
“The Department of the Interior is committed to telling the rich, diverse story of America and lifting up underrepresented peoples and communities,” Haaland said in a statement. “Despite many hard-fought victories, there is still a long way to go to ensure full liberation, peace, and equality for the LGBTQ+ community.”
The flag “includes black and brown stripes to represent marginalized LGBTQ+ communities of color, along with the colors pink, light blue and white, which are used on the Transgender Pride Flag,” Interior noted in its announcement.
Haaland took over the agency from a Trump administration that repeatedly sought to undermine LGBTQ equality.
In 2019, for example, Interior officials removed the words “sexual orientation” from anti-discrimination language in the agency’s ethics guide, as HuffPost reported. At the time, the agency dismissed the change as a “non-story,” noting that under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the term “sex” covers sexual orientation and gender identity ― a perplexing explanation, given that the Trump administration had recently made the exact opposite argument before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Dozens of conservation organizations signed a letter demanding that then-Interior chief David Bernhardt, who succeeded Zinke at the agency’s helm under Trump, reinstate the language. The groups argued that removing the language would “have a chilling effect on LGBTQ people applying for jobs at DOI ― and it betrays current Interior Department employees.”
The Interior Department did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s inquiry about whether the old guidance has been restored.
“Justice and equality for LGBTQ+ people is more than just a policy issue for me; it’s personal,” Haaland said in her statement Monday. “I am fully committed to making the Interior Department a leader on inclusion and equity and to ensuring our decisions are informed by and centered around the voices of a diverse American public.”
Biden issued an official proclamation on June 1 recognizing June as Pride Month — something Trump never did — and has worked to reverse a number of anti-LGBTQ policies of the previous administration, including a ban on transgender people serving in the military.