A new bill that would prohibit the flying of specific flags in public buildings, universities, and public schools is being considered by politicians in Florida.
According to the bill, flags that express political opinions on matters of race, gender, or sexual orientation would be outlawed in general.
Rep. David Borrero, the bill’s sponsor, stated, “Flying a pride flag, a BLM flag, or flag of a political party has no place in our government buildings.”
The measure is already generating debate and raising issues with free expression.
Representative Anna Eskamani stated, “I think it’s discriminatory and censoring content, specific content the state does not approve of.”
Legislative officials stated that it is unclear to whom the entire statute would apply and what flags might be prohibited.
During Monday’s Senate hearing, legislators talked about how unclear the law is.
They cited variations in the House and Senate sponsors’ interpretations of the legislation. Last Monday, the sponsors of the House said that teachers’ and government employees’ uniforms may not have the flags worn on their lapels. The bill’s sponsors in the Senate claimed it makes no mention of lapels or clothing bearing the flag.
“Once more, detractors may argue that this is intentional, that the supporters of these measures wish to restrict free speech, particularly symbolic speech. And the best way to achieve it, according to UCF political science professor Aubrey Jewett, is to acknowledge that things are a little unclear.
Jewett claims that in first amendment cases, judges have routinely overturned legislation that discriminate based on a person’s perspective of view. The proponents of the House bill informed the committee last week that while pride or Black Lives Matter flags would be prohibited, flags like the Israeli flag would be permitted.
It certainly raises a few red flags. And the reason for this is that it exposes the government to intense judicial examination if it enacts legislation that appears to favor some forms of speech over others or to imply that some forms of expression are prohibited but others are permitted, according to Jewett.