Mississippi Republicans call for removal of Pride Flag from Veterans Cemetery

Mississippi Congressional Republicans are demanding that the Department of Veterans Affairs remove a temporary pride flag from Biloxi National Cemetery, arguing that its presence is disrespectful to veterans.

In a letter Monday to Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough, the five GOP lawmakers, including Sens. Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith, called the addition of the flag during Pride month a “political stunt”.

“Cemeteries should be places of reflection and respect, not public signals of virtue,” says the letter, which was also signed by Reps. Mike Ezell, Michael Guest and Trent Kelly. “Our veterans expect the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide services, not promote controversial ideologies.”

The flag was added to a display of American flags last week. McDonough has authorized all VA facilities to fly the Pride Flag — designed by Army veteran Gilbert Baker — for up to 30 days during Pride Month.

A Biloxi VA spokesperson, Shaun Shenk, told Biloxi’s WLOX-TV last week that the flag is a symbol of inclusion.

“There is nothing more military than this flag because not only does it represent a group of veterans traditionally marginalized by society, but the person who created the flag was also a veteran of the military,” said Shenk, a disabled Iraq war veteran.

Shenk and the VA did not immediately respond to requests for comment from NBC News Monday night.

It is unknown how many VA facilities and cemeteries fly the flag. In the letter, lawmakers argue they should all be removed.

“We ask that you order Biloxi National Cemetery and other veterans facilities to remove the LGBT Pride Flag and restore the United States Flag to its rightful place,” they wrote.

The VA estimates there are 1 million LGBTQ veterans in the United States, and studies have shown they have suicidal thoughts at higher rates and are less likely to seek care, in part because from fear of discrimination.

This article originally appeared on NBCNews.com

Leave a Comment