Two Republican legislators in Florida have filed bills that would ban the display of Pride flags in municipal buildings across the state. The proposed legislation, submitted by Senator Jay Collins of Hillsborough County and Representative David Borrero of Miami-Dade County, would require state and local government agencies to raise flags that “follow a certain protocol or comply with specified requirements.” Those include the American, Florida, POW-MIA, and Firefighter Memorial banners.
“No other flag may be exposed to public view for exhibition or display, in any manner, by a governmental agency, local government, or unit of local government,” reads House Bill 1011, submitted yesterday, February 22. The second bill, submitted to the Senate on February 16, would enact the house bill starting July 1, 2023.
The bill also mandates that all public school classrooms, spanning kindergartens to graduate schools, display US and state flags.
Though the bill text does not refer explicitly to Pride banners, the Republican legislators’ intent is clear, says Rand Hoch, a retired judge and the founder of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council (PBCHRC).
“There’s no doubt in anyone’s minds about what’s happening in Tallahassee,” Hoch told Hyperallergic. “I don’t understand why their priority is making sure municipal buildings can’t display Pride flags. They should be focusing on the cost of insurance or other issues that are pressing in Florida.”
In addition to taking away rights from LGBTQ+ and trans people, Hoch said, the legislators are attempting to limit the rights of municipalities. West Palm Beach, he argues, has a significant LGBTQ+ community, and the Pride flag has been raised there for years. But legislators in Florida “don’t care about the diversity of the state,” Hoch said. Last summer, the town of Surfside voted to continue flying the Pride Flag during Pride Month in June.
Earlier this month, the town council of Huntington, California voted not to fly the Pride flag at its city hall, and across the country, school districts have prohibited Pride flags over the last year. In September 2022, the American Civil Liberties Union won a lawsuit against an Oregon school district that issued a ban.
The proposed legislation comes as the latest attack on LGBTQ+ people and progressive values derided by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis as “woke.” Earlier this month, DeSantis announced plans to withdraw diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs from state universities, specifically targeting the teaching of critical race theory. The governor’s far-right viewpoint seem to be fueling the fire of exclusionary ideologies across the state: Last week, a public art exhibition was canceled after the State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota deemed works about diversity and inclusion “potentially offensive.”
“We still have no protections for [the LGBTQ+] community in our state,” Hoch said.