Florida bill on flags at government buildings to be reworked ‘in line with the state constitution’

UPDATE, 3/15/2023, 4:30 p.m.: Florida Sen. Jay Collins’ spokesman Ted Veerman released the following statement about the bill, saying the amendment draft was filed in error and they are working to ensure the “bill is in line with the state constitution and statute.” Here is the full statement below:

“Jay Collins is an American patriot who personally sewed his arm back together on the battlefield in Afghanistan as he was hemorrhaging blood along with losing his leg due to injuries sustained in active combat in defense of the flag of the United States of America.

“Any insinuation that Jay is a confederate sympathizer is disgusting.

“This amendment draft was filed in error and has already been pulled as we work to ensure the wording of our bill is in line with the state constitution and statute, which is what created this issue in the first place.”

UPDATE, 3/15/2023, 2 p.m.: The proposed amendment that would have listed specific flags, including the Confederate flag, authorized to be flown on state and local government buildings was withdrawn by the bill sponsor less than 24 hours after being introduced.

The underlying bill, which does not include an exhaustive list of authorized flags was set to be heard in its first Senate committee Wednesday afternoon, but was temporarily postponed without explanation at the beginning of the meeting.

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It’s unclear whether the Confederate flag would be authorized for display on government buildings in the bill’s current form.

It’s also unclear when the bill may receive its first hearing.

Original story from 3/14/2023 below:

Florida Sen. Jay Collins (R-Tampa) has filed a new Florida amendment that proposes a law to prohibit certain flags from being displayed by governmental agencies, local governments, and other units of local government. The Confederate flag is included in the list of permitted flags, while the bill does not explicitly address LGBTQ+ flags.

Senate Bill 668 proposes the creation of a new section, 256.045, in the Florida Statutes, which would define the term “governmental entity” and restrict that only certain flags are displayed on public buildings and other public properties.

Under the proposed law, governmental entities and their officers and employees would only be allowed to display the following listed flags:

  • United States flag

  • State of Florida flag

  • Flag of the Confederate states

  • Flag of the United Nations

  • POW-MIA flag

  • Flags of foreign nations

  • Flags that represent the branches of the United States Armed Forces and the Florida National Guard

  • Flags of Florida’s counties, municipalities, public universities, and colleges

  • Flag of the Olympics

  • Flags indicating beach warnings

The proposed law would restrict the flags that can be displayed by governmental entities in and on public buildings and properties, but it does not ban the Confederate flag. The flag of the Confederate States is included in the list of flags that are permitted to be displayed by governmental entities and their officers and employees.

Confederate flags have been a source of controversy due to their association with slavery and racism. Many people see them as a symbol of hate and oppression, while others view them as a representation of Southern heritage and pride. The use and display of Confederate flags have been a topic of debate, and various states and organizations have taken steps to ban or limit their use.

READ: Confederate flag flies again over downtown Jacksonville to protest removal of monuments

The proposed law also does not specifically mention or prohibit the display of LGBTQ+ flags on government buildings. However, the exclusion of LGBTQ+ flags from the list of permissible flags has raised questions about the possibility of a ban on these flags under this law.

While some cities in Florida have passed ordinances protecting LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination, the state has also faced backlash for controversial legislation and policies that have been seen as discriminatory towards the LGBTQ+ community.

READ: LGBTQ+ Advocates testify against Florida bill they’re calling “Don’t Say Gay 2.0″

This means that if a governmental entity wants to display a flag that represents the LGBTQ+ community, such as the rainbow flag or the transgender flag, it would not be permitted under this law. On the other hand, the bill includes the Confederate flag on the list of permitted flags, allowing it to be displayed by governmental entities.

These restrictions however would not restrict a citizen’s right to display a flag in a traditional public forum.

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It remains to be seen whether the law will be enacted, but it has been recommended by the Committee on Governmental Oversight and Accountability and may be debated in the Florida Senate in the near future.

The law, if approved, would take effect on July 1, 2023.

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