GOP Rep demanded the VA stop flying Pride flags. They shut him down.

Rep. Matt Rosendale
Rep. Matt Rosendale Photo: Screenshot/CSPAN

On Monday, Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-MT) sent a letter to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough to demand that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) remove their Pride flags. The department refused, saying they support all veterans, including LGBTQ+ veterans.

“VA facilities fly the Pride flag – which was created by an Army Veteran – as a tribute to the service and sacrifice of LGBTQ+ Veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors,” VA Press Secretary Terrence Hayes told the Helena Independent Record.

“Secretary McDonough authorized the flying of the Pride flag at VA facilities for the duration of Pride Month, as he has done in previous years. VA continues to fly the American flag and POW flag in their rightful places at all facilities, and no flags are moved or taken down for the Pride flag to be flown.”

In his letter, Rosendale described the Pride flag as “woke identity politics” and complained about a May 24 memo encouraging medical facilities run by the VA to fly the flag. He described it as a waste of money and said that “flying this flag puts one group of veterans above the rest.”

He also threatened the VA by saying that “Congress will act” by passing H.B. 8580, the military construction and VA appropriations bill. The House version of the bill bans the hanging of any flags outside of the American flag and restricts funding for gender-affirming care through the VA. 

Rosendale gave them a deadline of June 18 to answer his questions about the purpose of the Pride flags and their funding.

“The VA should be worrying more about providing world-class care to our veterans and less about inundating them with propagandist gay flags,” said Rosendale in a press release.

“This unnecessary distraction does absolutely nothing to ensure our veterans are receiving the healthcare and benefits they have earned. I call on Sec. McDonough and all VA medical centers to halt this discriminatory virtue signaling immediately.”

Rosendale has a history of opposing LGBTQ+ rights. Last year, he added an amendment to the annual National Defense Authorization Act in an attempt to ban gender-affirming care for veterans. In defending that bill, he argued that trans people don’t know if “they are a man or a woman” and therefore are prone to launching “ICBM missiles” on everyone. He also opposed drag shows on military bases.

“Throughout Pride Month, we recognize the contributions of the more than one million LGBTQ+ Veterans in this Nation, and their families, caregivers, and survivors,” Hayes said in his statement.

“It is our mission at VA to provide these Veterans — and all Veterans — with the world-class care and benefits they deserve in a safe, caring, and welcoming environment.”

Big Sky Pride President Kevin Hamm of Montana is skeptical that Rosendale will do much of anything, saying that he hasn’t taken sufficient action in protecting veterans and that the flying of Pride flags is important to protect the mental health of LGBTQ+ veterans.

“If [Rosendale] had bothered to do his job in Congress, instead of fighting culture wars, the VA would work properly,” Hamm said.

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