A State Lawmaker Wants to Allow Only Government Flags to Fly Over Government Buildings

By default, the bill would also prohibit POW/MIA flags and others from flying above the capitol.

By default, the bill would also prohibit POW/MIA flags and others from flying above the capitol. Shutterstock

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A measure to ban "social issue flags" on public buildings came after the Michigan governor flew rainbow flags on her office building to celebrate LGBTQ Pride Month.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer this June flew rainbow flags from her office building in Lansing to commemorate LGBTQ Pride Month. At the end of July, a state lawmaker filed a bill to prevent it from happening again.

The bill, introduced by state Rep. Lynn Afendoulis, would allow only the United States flag, the governor’s flag and the Michigan flag to fly above state buildings. In a statement, Afendoulis, a Republican, said it was inappropriate to display social issue flags on government land.

“We shouldn’t be playing identity politics with the people’s property,” she said. “It isn’t right.”

Afendoulis, a Republican, is running for Congress in Michigan’s 3rd District, a seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Justin Amash. Amash announced in July that he was leaving the Republican Party to become an independent.

Whitmer, a Democrat, was the first governor in Michigan’s history to display the pride flag on state property. She vowed to veto the bill if it passed the state legislature, saying on Twitter, “My veto pen is ready.”

As written, Afendoulis’ bill would also prohibit the state from displaying flags honoring prisoners of war and veterans, which currently fly above the state capitol on certain holidays, noted Peter Meijer, a Republican also aiming for Amash’s seat. 

“Please tell me it’s an oversight that your bill forbids flying the POW/MIA flag and honoring our ~88,000 men and women missing in action?” he wrote on Twitter.

Flag laws are relatively common. Several states and the District of Columbia have laws that restrict the placement of certain flags on government property. Idaho, for example, prohibits the display of a “red flag or any other flag in a public place” as a sign of violent opposition to organized government. North Dakota does not allow public display of flags other than the U.S. flag, a state flag or the flag of a “friendly foreign nation.”

The bill is currently awaiting a hearing before the House Government Operations Committee. 

Kate Elizabeth Queram is a Staff Correspondent for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C

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