Right-wing figures and Republicans are expressing their outrage over the U.S. Air Force's decision to publish a message supporting LGBTQI+ service members during Pride Month.
On June 6, the social media account of the military department released a silhouette of a soldier saluting in front of a Pride flag. The message on the same post read: "proudly recognizes and celebrates generations of LGBTQI+ service members and their contributions to our Air Force & Space Force."
Air Force may have opened themselves up to free speech litigation here
Especially considering they restricted comments in a deliberate effort to censor, as there were over 6,400 comments before restrictions were enabled: pic.twitter.com/addE7WqToQ
— Ashley St. Clair (@stclairashley) June 8, 2023
The response from conservative figures was mostly negative. The chief creative officer for the student group Turning Point USA, Benny Johnson, had a particularly strong reaction. He called the Pride movement a "cult" and said that the post was "actively disgracing our military."
South Carolina Republican congressman Ralph Norman tweeted while sharing the Air Force's post: “The only colors American military ought to salute are Red, White, and Blue.”
Colorado rep. Lauren Boebert also weighed in, writing: "We salute one flag and one flag only in the United States of America. It isn't the 'Pride' flag."
Conservative talk-show host Joe Pagliarulo was less than pleased with the post too. He expressed that his father, who served in the Air Force, "would be sickened to see a meme depicting an Air Force member saluting with an ideological flag prominent," before asking "wtf is this garbage?"
Air Force veteran Mike Garcia took a similar stance, writing: "You should focus on winning wars & not social or political issues. Disgusting."
However, others were supportive of the Air Force's Pride message, with some claiming that it wasn’t about saluting the Pride flag but sending a salute to those who are/were LGBTQI+ that have served.
The outrage from conservatives extends far beyond the U.S. Air Force's post. The Pentagon recently confirmed that it would not allow drag shows at U.S. military bases and a drag show celebrating Pride Month at the Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada has been canceled. Several companies that have supported Pride have also been met with criticism and even boycotts from conservatives, such as bud light and Target.
The U.S. military has long been a point of controversy when it comes to the rights of members of the LGBTQI+ community. It remains to be seen if the recently heightened support for the community will lead to more inclusive policy changes.