Marshall protests gay pride flag to Bernanke

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Virginia Delegate Robert G. Marshall is appealing to Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke in his efforts to get a rainbow flag removed from outside the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.

The flag, long associated with gay pride, is being flown under the American flag in honor of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Month.

Earler this month, Mr. Marshall notified Jeffrey M. Lacker, president of the Richmond Federal Reserve, of his objections. In a blistering letter, the Manassas Republican wrote that the flying of the flag was a “serious deficiency of judgment by your organization, one not limited to social issues.”

“A flagpole in front of a federal building is not a commercial or political message board. What does flying the Homosexual Flag, or any other similar display, have to do with your central banking mission under the Federal Reserve Act passed by Congress?”

Sally Green, the bank’s first vice president and chief operating officer, was quoted in news reports earlier this month as saying that they were “flying the pride flag as an example of our commitment to the values of acceptance and inclusion.”

Indicating that he got what he termed an “ambiguous response,” Mr. Marshall sent the following letter dated June 24 to Mr. Bernanke:

Dear Chairman Bernanke:

I write you as a senior member of the Virginia House of Delegates regarding the decision of the Federal Reserve Bank in Richmond to fly the homosexual, bisexual and transgender rainbow flag, along with the American flag, at its Richmond offices during June.

This act appears to violate the Richmond Fed’s own political advocacy policy: ” Federal Reserve Banks have a unique need to protect their independence from the political process … an employee may not engage in political activity while on duty or on Bank premises, and must be extremely cautious to avoid any suggestion of Bank sponsorship or support of such activities.”

In the Richmond Fed’s June 16, 2011 public response to me, Mr. Jeffrey Lacker first reported that this decision “generated considerable public reaction,” but then disputed that flying this rainbow flag was a “political or social statement.” His response failed to explain how this decision to fly the rainbow flag was arrived at, other than to say employees requested it.

Mr. Lacker also failed to address how the Fed made its decision or how it would handle future requests from other employee groups. However, a reporter later told me that a Fed spokesman had said it would be a non-starter if an employee group requested the Richmond Fed to even consider flying a Christian Flag or a Flag of the Sons of the Confederacy.

The New York Times reported (6-10-11) that, “Jim Strader, a spokesman for the bank, said the bank had fielded hundreds of phone calls and as many e-mails about the flag. … One of the most popular arguments by the flag’s opponents was that the bank is a government institution … Mr. Strader’s response is that the bank is in fact privately owned, as are all regional Federal Reserves, and that it considers requests by employees … but not the general public.”

As chairman of the Federal Reserve System please advise me of the following:

(1) Did the Richmond Fed violate its own non-partisan directive? If so, what steps will you take to ensure that it does not happen again.

(2) Regardless of whether the flag flying violated the Richmond Fed policy, should the Federal Reserve, and/or its 12 regional banks, use Fed money to take such public advocacy positions?

(3) Mr. Strader’s comments about the status of the Richmond Fed are problematic. Was Fed spokesman Jim Strader accurate when he told the New York Times that the Fed’s 12 regional member banks are privately owned, and not governmental in nature? I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Delegate Bob Marshall

R - 13th District of Virginia

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