Monday, April 15, 2024

Tennessee lawmakers are pushing a law that might stop schools from using the LGBTQ Pride flag

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Lawmakers in Tennessee are considering a bill that could restrict certain flags in public schools, causing concern among LGBTQ advocates who see it as an attempt to ban the Pride flag and limit free speech.

The Tennessee state House moved forward with HB 1605, a change to the Tennessee Code specifying which flags can be displayed in schools. The proposed bill lists acceptable flags, such as the U.S. flag, the official Tennessee state flag, and those protected by the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act.

Critics argue that including the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act might allow the Confederate flag to be displayed while banning the Pride flag. This act, in effect since 2013, prevents the removal or alteration of memorials on public property related to historic conflicts or events, including those from the Civil War.

Republican Rep. Gino Bulso introduced HB1605 after receiving complaints about the Pride flag from parents in his district. He claims the bill aims to let parents decide the values their children are exposed to in school.

Despite opposition, the bill would also allow a parent or guardian to take legal action against schools that don’t comply.

Advocates and civil rights groups argue that the amendment infringes on First Amendment rights and harms students. The Pride flag, they say, signals acceptance and safety for LGBTQ students, who already face higher rates of bullying and discrimination.

This proposed legislation aligns with a broader parental rights movement in the U.S. seeking more control over what is taught in classrooms about race, sexuality, and gender. HB1605 is part of a trend of anti-LGBTQ bills in various states, with Tennessee and North Dakota passing the most in 2023.

In a separate case, Tennessee sought to overturn a federal judge’s ruling declaring a state law limiting public drag show performances as unconstitutional.

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