TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A bill introduced Wednesday by Florida Republicans would ban teachers and other state employees from displaying the rainbow flag — even wearing it as a lapel pin for a day — but they could hang a full-size flag of any “recognized flag.” nation” as long as they want, according to the bill’s sponsor.
Flag displays that reflect “racial, sexual orientation and gender or political ideological viewpoints” would be banned from any state or local government building, including public schools and universities, under the bill authored by GOP Rep. David Borrero.
Opponents say the bill is motivated by hate. Borrero said he was protective of children and would even ban lapel pins representing the flags of the LGBTQ and Black Lives Matter movements.
“Public classrooms should not be where our children go to be radicalized and evangelized to embrace these partisan, radical ideologies,” Borrero said. “It is completely inappropriate to hang these types of flags in front of public school students and government buildings.”
Asked about other flags, Borrero said flags of sovereign nations recognized by the United States, such as Israel, can be displayed in the classroom. Because the US does not recognize Palestine as a nation, it would exclude the Palestinian flag.
Borrero said the ban would not apply to students or government employees when they are not at work or in public buildings. But it would apply to lawmakers’ offices, and at least some Democrats said they would violate the law if DeSantis signed the bill.
“Are we in Russia? Are we in Cuba? This is authoritarianism. This is fascism at its best,” said Sen. Shevrin Jones, who is black and gay and has a rainbow-colored “Pride in the Capitol” poster and other pride symbols in his public lobby.
“The way I grew up, rainbows meant hope. … I can promise you that he was not the one who made me gay,” Jones added. “I’m not taking a damn thing. I want everyone to see it.”
Florida lawmakers already have Passed a number of anti-LGBTQ laws Republican governor Ron DeSantis is running for president. DeSantis has signed bans against teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools. It banned transgender health care for minors and created new barriers for transgender adults, making it easier for parents to remove LGBTQ-themed books from schools.
The bill, advanced by a 9-5 majority of the House Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights, Rule of Law and Government Operations, faces an uncertain path even as Republicans dominate the Legislature. The House committee has one more stop before consideration by the full chamber. A companion Senate bill has been referred to three committees and is not scheduled for a hearing.
DeSantis’ office did not respond to an email asking if he supported the legislation.
Democratic Rep. Michelle Reiner, who is black and lesbian, spoke of her frustration that anti-LGBTQ bills continue to come through the Florida Legislature while ignoring more pressing needs, such as access to affordable housing and property insurance.
“Once again, we’re focusing on things that no one wants us to,” Rayner said, sitting next to rainbow-printed “Protect LGBTQ+ Students” flyers in his office. “Outside my office is Black Voters Matter. No matter what bill they pass, it will stay out of my office because there is something called the First Amendment.
Borrero’s bill would also apply to local governments, such as Fort Lauderdale’s Wilton Manors, a gay town of 11,000 where Pride flags fly almost everywhere, including City Hall, during Pride Month. The bridge into town is surrounded by rainbow-colored barriers and a Pride flag and a trans pride flag that flies year-round above the small park in front of City Hall.
Robert Boo, CEO of the city’s Pride Center, said DeSantis and supporters of the bill hope to “erase the LGBTQ community” and throw “red meat” at their political supporters while ignoring the complex issues plaguing the state.
“Wilton Manors is the second gayest town in the country. It is important for Wilton Manors to be able to fly the flags that represent the members of the community,” said Boo. “It may not apply to the middle state of Florida, and they may not want to do it, but I think municipalities should have the ability and the freedom to fly the flags that best represent their constituents.”