Florida Republicans have introduced a bill that would prohibit the display of any flag that expresses a “racial, sexual orientation and gender, or political ideology viewpoint” in public schools, universities, and government buildings. The bill would affect flags such as those of the LGBTQ+ and Black Lives Matter movements, but not those of recognized nations, such as Israel or Iran.
The bill’s sponsors claim it protects children from indoctrination
The bill, FL HB901 (24R), was authored by GOP Rep. David Borrero and co-sponsored by seven other Republicans. It was approved by a House committee on Wednesday along party lines, with nine Republicans voting in favor and five Democrats voting against. The bill has not been scheduled for a hearing in the Senate, where a similar bill, FL SB1120 (24R), has been filed.
The bill’s sponsors claim that the bill is necessary to protect children from being “subliminally indoctrinated” with “critical race theory, Marxism and transgender ideology” in public classrooms and government buildings. They argue that taxpayer dollars should not be used to subsidize political speech in these places, and that only the United States, Florida and POW-MIA flags should be allowed.
“Our taxpayer dollars should not be subsidizing political speech in government buildings and classrooms,” Borrero said. “It’s time we stopped … local governments and public school teachers from using classrooms and governments buildings as their indoctrination pulpit.”
The bill’s opponents say it is inspired by hate and silences marginalized voices
The bill’s opponents, including Democrats, LGBTQ+ advocates, and civil rights groups, say that the bill is inspired by hate and silences the voices of marginalized communities. They say that displaying flags such as those of the LGBTQ+ and Black Lives Matter movements is not a political statement, but an affirmation of human dignity and diversity. They also point out that the bill would allow the display of flags of countries that violate human rights, such as North Korea or Iran, but not those of groups that fight for justice and equality, such as Palestine or Tibet.
“Affirming that Black Lives Matter is not ideology, displaying a pride flag does not hurt anyone,” said state Rep. Dotie Joseph, a Democrat who is Black and Haitian-American. “At bottom, what hurts people in this culture war codification is hate and … violence.”
Robert Boo, the CEO of the Pride Center at Equality Park, a community center that supports the local LGBTQ+ community and their allies, said that the bill is “bullying” and “affirming hate”. He said that the rainbow flag represents hope and inclusion, and that banning it would send a negative message to LGBTQ+ youth and adults.
“How I was raised, the rainbow meant hope. … I can promise you it wasn’t that that made me gay,” Boo said.
The bill is part of a larger culture war waged by Florida Republicans
The bill is part of a larger culture war waged by Florida Republicans, led by Gov. Ron DeSantis, who have passed or proposed several laws that target LGBTQ+ and minority rights in the state. In 2023, DeSantis signed laws that banned transgender minors from receiving gender-affirming care, made it a criminal offense for someone to use bathrooms that don’t align with their sex at birth, and broadened the state’s prohibition on teaching about sexual identity and gender orientation in schools. This year, there are several new bills proposed by lawmakers that would restrict the use of personal pronouns that don’t align with a person’s sex at birth in some workplaces, and ban books that contain LGBTQ+ content from public libraries.
“Are we in Russia? Are we in Cuba? That’s authoritarianism. That’s fascism at it’s best,” said state Sen. Shevrin Jones, who is Black and gay and has a “Pride at the Capitol” poster with rainbow colors in his public lobby, along with other pride symbols. “I can tell you this much, if this bill passes, I will break the law.”