TALLAHASSEE, FLA. (WSVN) - Iconic LGBTQ+ pride symbols are being flagged in Florida as a bill makes its way in Tallahassee that would limit what flies on government property.
“Members, let the record reflect that House Bill 901 has passed out of this committee favorably with a vote of nine yeas and five nays,” said Republican State Rep. Randy Fine.
The controversial bill cleared the first hurdle in the Florida Legislature.
On Wednesday, a House subcommittee gave the first stamp of approval to the bill that is taking aim at what kinds of flags can be flown in local government buildings.
“The flag that should unite us, the flag of Florida, the flag of the United States, those will be the flags that are flown in our government meetings,” Fine said.
House Bill 901, filed by Fine and Republican State Rep. David Borrero of Sweetwater in December, would bar cities, counties and school districts from flying gay, trans or other flags that are deemed too political, such as those supporting groups like Black Lives Matter or political figures.
“People throw out these lines, ‘First Amendment,’ things like that, but they have no idea what they are actually talking about,” Fine said. “Government does not have First Amendment rights; people have First Amendment rights in their private capacity.”
But opponents said this move is just the latest attack on the LGBTQ+ community and would unfairly target a lot of South Florida cities.
“Wilton Manors is the second gayest city in the country per capita,” said Robert Boo with Pride Center of Florida. “The city should be able to put up an equality flag or a transgender flag and celebrate our community.”
Wilton Manors flies a pride flag high at a park along Wilton Drive. Some local leaders say that it should be left to each city.
“If a city wants to raise a flag in recognition or to honor a group or an organization, if we want to fly the [National Parent Teacher Association] flag, we’re going to do that,” said Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis back in December. “If we want to fly a flag that commemorates a dignitary visiting from another country, we’re going to do that. That’s been the custom.”
Others are going to wait to see the final version to come out of the Legislature.
“I think we’ve had a discourse relative to the utilization of flags. I think we have to wait until that particular bill becomes law and see whether the rules that are going to be applicable to that,” said Miami-Dade Public Schools Board member Dr. Steve Gallon III, “but I think we have to square what’s done at the state level and what’s done at the school site level with what is allowable under the Constitution.”
If the bill does pass and is signed by Gov. Ron Desantis, it would go into effect on July 1, which is just one day after the end of Pride Month.
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