Legislation: FL local governments wouldn’t be able to display Pride flags

By: - March 17, 2023 3:58 pm

Hillsborough County officials raise the Pride flag in front of County Center in June of 2021 (photo credit: screenshot of Facebook video)

In June, a number of cities and counties throughout Florida display the LGBTQ Pride flag as a public affirmation of Pride Month and a time to celebrate the LGBTQ community.

But that would be a thing of the past if legislation is approved and makes its way to the governor’s desk.

The bill sponsors in the Legislature are Tampa Republican Jay Collins in the Senate (SB 668) and Miami-Dade County Republican David Borrero (HB 1011).

Collins filed an amendment to his bill this week that provides a specific list of flags that would be permitted to be displayed by government entities such as cities, counties and public schools. Among those that make the cut include the POW-MIA flag, the flag of the Olympics and the flag of the United Nations.

Noticeably absent is the Pride flag.

“It turns out that in the ‘free’ state of Florida we soon won’t be allowed to hang Pride flags outside of our offices, all because some lawmakers don’t think showing solidarity with LGBTQ+ is important,” Orlando Democratic Rep. Anna Eskamani told the Phoenix. “I oppose this bill and see it as another attempt of overreach by Tallahassee and proudly display both an American flag and Pride flag at my office.”

Last year the city of Clearwater held its first Pride flag-raising event at their Municipal Services Building.

“I think cities should decide, in conjunction with their residents, what type of flags they choose to fly on government property,” Clearwater City Councilmember Kathleen Beckman told the Phoenix in a text message.

Jon Harris Maurer, Equality Florida’s public policy director, says that local governments can convey their values in a number of ways, and says that flags have historically been used to connect communities “in an exercise of free speech.”

“This effort to crack down on flags is part of a broader and deeply alarming trend of censorship this session,” he said in an email. “Countless local governments fly flags to mark special occasions or welcome communities across the state. Pride flags have flown at City Halls from Orlando to St. Petersburg to Miami Beach. Banning these sorts of displays at city halls, fire stations, and in public classrooms is wrong and offensive.”

The legislation also doesn’t list flags for athletic teams.

The City of Tampa has in recent years raised the flag of the Tampa Bay Rays , the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A spokesperson for the city told the Phoenix that they are aware of the measure and are tracking the legislation.

Collins bill has yet to be heard in any of the three committees it’s been assigned to.

It was supposed to be presented in the Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee this week, but it was temporarily postponed after a controversy of sorts erupted after the amendment he filed listed the Confederate flag as among those that would be allowed to be displayed on government property.

That amendment was “filed in error,” according to a tweet sent out by Ted Veerman, a spokesman for Collins.

“Any insinuation that Jay is a confederate sympathizer is disgusting,” Veerman tweeted from Collins twitter account. “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.”

This is Collins’ first legislative session in Tallahassee. In his political campaign, he defeated Democratic incumbent Janet Cruz by nearly 10 percentage points in the Tampa-based Senate District 14 seat last November.

According to Equality Florida, there have been over 20 bills filed this legislative session targeting the LGBTQ community.

“We’re not the bogeyman, and I know that these factions want to make us the bogeyman, but we’re not,” says Luis Salazar, the president of the Hillsborough County LGBTQ+ Democratic Caucus. “We’re literally the people who live next door to you. The people that sit at the dinner table with you at family dinners. We’re not here to attack anyone or hurt anyone. We just want to live our lives and be free just like anyone else.”

The Phoenix reached out to the offices of both Sen. Collins and Rep. Borrero for comment, but they did not respond back.

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Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has covered politics and government in Florida for more than two decades. Most recently he is the former politics reporter for Bay News 9. He has also worked at Florida Politics, Creative Loafing and WMNF Radio in Tampa. He was also part of the original staff when the Florida Phoenix was created in 2018.

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