By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org
Eight years after the Florida senate stripped the confederate battle flag from that chamber’s official seal, a state senator tried briefly Tuesday to ensure the confederate flag could fly at government buildings across the state.
But about an hour after Florida Bulldog called Sen. Jay Collins, R-Tampa to ask why he wanted to allow that powerful symbol of racial oppression to be displayed at state and local governments and at public schools and universities he withdrew his proposal.
Collins, who had the endorsement of Gov. Ron DeSantis when he defeated influential Democrat Janet Cruz last November, did not respond to a request for comment. “He was a Green Beret and is a Purple Heart amputee. I look forward to serving alongside him in Tallahassee,” DeSantis wrote on Twitter before last November’s election.
Senate Bill 668, filed by Collins, seeks to prohibit state and local governments from displaying flags that don’t follow “a certain protocol or comply with specified requirements.” An amendment also filed by Collins includes a list of dozen flags that would be authorized to be flown at state, county and local buildings in Florida.
In the middle of the list: “The flag of the Confederate States.”
Not on the list: The oft-displayed rainbow, or pride, flag of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) movements.
‘A RELIC OF THE PAST’
Eight years ago, then Senate Minority Leader Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, spearheaded a successful effort to erase the confederate flag from the Florida Senate’s seal. She was appalled by Collins’s proposal.
“The confederate flag is a relic of the past. It represents and is a symbol of the worst of this country’s racism and hate and evokes anger and fear and trauma in black people for sure,” she said. “Back then we had a different kind of Republican Party, people who respected where America was and where it ought to be. It is abhorrent that he would allow this symbol of slavery and hatred to be flown after all that has been done in America. It just appears now that there is a move afoot to take us back to slavery. But we’re not going. We’ll die first.”
Brandon Wolf, a spokesman for the LGBTQ civil rights organization Equality Florida, said in a statement, “From its filing, it has been clear that this bill was intended to target Pride flags, among other forms of expression for marginalized communities. Flags have historically been used to connect communities in an exercise of free speech and this radical censorship bill has always been about attacking visibility for minority groups.
“The amendment to exempt Confederate flags, the symbol of those who tried to tear the United States apart in defense of slavery, sends a clear message that right wing politicians would sooner prop up racist relics of traitors past than allow LGBTQ Floridians and other communities to see themselves publicly celebrated in their communities by way of flags,” he said.
‘A CONSTITUTIONAL ISSUE’
A senate staff analysis of SB 668, which would take effect July 1, does not mention the amendment’s endorsement of the confederate flag, but the bill may have a “constitutional issue.”
That’s because “by limiting the flags that may be displayed by governmental agencies, local governments, or other units of local government,” the prohibition of other flags “may be determined to limit speech.”
The flags allowed are Florida’s flag, the American flag, the POW-MIA flag and the Honor and Remember flag.
In addition to the confederate flag, the withdrawn amendment added as acceptable the United Nations flag, the flags of foreign nations, the flags of the U.S. Armed Forces and the Florida National Guard, city and county flags, college and university flags, flags indicating beach warnings and the Olympics flag.
A companion bill, HB 1011, is also pending.
Senate Bill 668, minus the withdrawn amendment, is scheduled to go before the Senate’s Governmental and Oversight Committee Wednesday.