Legislation to ban LGBTQ+ Pride flags introduced in Florida and Tennessee

(Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Republican lawmakers in Florida and Tennessee have introduced measures that, if passed, would ban the display of the LGBTQ+ Pride flag or other “political flags” from local and state government buildings and facilities.

Republican Rep. David Borrero, who represents Northwestern Miami-Dade County, introduced House Bill 901 that would prohibit local governments and agencies from flying the LGBTQ+ Pride flag or any other banner representing a “social or political position.” According to the bill’s language, “The government agency must remain neutral when representing political viewpoints in displaying or erecting a flag.”

Florida Politics reported that as written, HB 901 would ban local governments, government agencies and public schools, colleges and universities from displaying any flag that represents a partisan, racial, sexual, gender or political viewpoint.

It also requires that in cases where the United States flag is flown near or alongside other flags, the U.S. flag must be in a “prominent position that is superior to any other” on display.

Borrero’s bill is similar to legislation he and Tampa Republican Sen. Jay Collins filed in February (SB 668).

In Tennessee, state Rep. Gino Bulso (R-Brentwood) filed HB 1605 making it make it illegal for public and charter schools to display any flag other than the U.S. flag and Tennessee state flag, targeting “political” symbols such as LGBTQ+ Pride flags.

According to journalist Tiah Shepherd at The Hill, the bill could also target several other political and cultural flags, including the Black Lives Matter flag.

While Tennessee law already mandates that all public schools display the U.S. flag, the passage of HB 1605 could make it the first state to adopt a statewide ban on political flags in public classrooms.

On Feb. 6, 2023, the ACLU published an open letter stating that Rainbow flags, Pride flags and other symbols celebrating LGBTQ+ Pride are a protected form of free speech in school settings.

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