The Epoch Times

Mississippi Republicans Demand LGBT Pride Flag Be Removed From Veterans Affairs Cemetery

By Katabella Roberts

Five Republican lawmakers from Mississippi are calling on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to remove an LGBT Pride flag that has been temporarily placed on Biloxi Veterans Affairs property, arguing that its installment amounts to a “political stunt.”

In the June 5 letter, the lawmakers said they believe that the flag hanging in front of the Biloxi VA Medical Center and Biloxi National Cemetery is disrespectful to veterans.

The rainbow flag was added to a display of American flags at the front of the hospital and cemetery campus on June 1 to commemorate Pride Month.

The letter (pdf) to Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough was signed by Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), and Reps. Trent Kelly (R-Miss.), Michael Guest (R-Miss.), and Mike Ezell (R-Miss.).

In their letter, the GOP lawmakers noted that Mississippi residents had learned that the Pride flag would be flown on a pole typically reserved for an American flag on Memorial Day, a day that they said “should have been dedicated to honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure our freedom.”

The lawmakers said the decision to do so was disrespectful to U.S. service members, veterans, and their families and demanded that the VA take immediate action to replace the Pride flags with American flags at all VA facilities across the state.

‘Public Virtue Signaling’

“Replacing the United States flag with a flag that promotes a particular sexual or gender identity goes against the very mission of our national cemeteries,” they wrote.

“These sites were established to be a shrine ‘sacred to the honor and memory of those interred or memorialized there.’ Cemeteries should be places for reflection and respect, not public virtue signaling,” the legislators continued.

The lawmakers concluded that the “political stunt” is another example of the Biden administration’s “willingness to promote its political agenda rather than focus on its mission as the executive branch.”

“Our veterans expect the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide services, not promote controversial ideologies,” they wrote.

McDonough in 2022 authorized the Pride flag to be flown at VA facilities nationwide for up to 30 days during Pride Month. The flag promotes lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender social movements.

It is unclear how many VA facilities and cemeteries across the state of Mississippi are currently flying the Pride flag, however the decision to do so has also prompted demonstrations among local residents who have asked for the flags to be taken down.

One of the flags that hung on the east side of the entrance to the Biloxi VA Medical Center has already been removed twice by an unknown individual before being replaced by VA personnel, WLOX-TV reported.

VA Defends Pride Flags

Amid the backlash, VA Press Secretary Terrence Hayes has defended the decision to keep the Pride flag in place above veterans facilities.

“LGBTQ+ veterans have served and sacrificed for our country, and it’s our mission at VA to provide them and all veterans with the world-class care and benefits they deserve,” Hayes said in a statement to WGNO.

“Secretary McDonough authorized the flying of the Pride flag above VA facilities for the duration of Pride Month. VA facilities fly the flag as a tribute to the service and sacrifice of LGBTQ+ veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors, and as a symbol of VA’s commitment to inclusion,” the press secretary added.

Elsewhere, Shaun Shenk, chief of community and public affairs at the Biloxi VA told WLOX-TV that diversity and inclusion have always been a part of the VA.

“It demonstrates how veterans can change the face of their communities and can carry the torch of diversity and inclusion,” he said. “There’s nothing more military than that flag, because not only does it represent a group of veterans who were traditionally marginalized by society, but the person who created the flag was also an Army veteran.”

As of now, the Pride flag in Biloxi remains in place.

The Epoch Times has contacted the Department of Veterans Affairs and a spokesperson for Biloxi Veterans Affairs Medical Center for comment.