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Salt Lake County bans most flags from government facilities

Republicans in city and county councils, state legislatures, and the U.S. Congress are working to ban all flags other than federal, state, county, and city flags from being flown at government facilities. Flags such as the Rainbow Pride, Black Lives Matter, and Juneteenth flags are forbidden to be flown under new ordinances and laws being passed in these bodies.

On May 25, the Salt Lake County Council voted along party lines to ban all flags on the grounds of county government facilities except the U.S. flag, the Utah state flag, Salt Lake County-related flags, flags representing the U.S. armed forces, other national flags as part of a dignitary visit or for historical and cultural purposes, and flags of vendors or contractors working on government buildings.

Flags in employee workspaces are to be handled by personnel policies, with consideration of First Amendment rights.

U.S. House Republicans have sponsored legislation, dubbed the “Old Glory Only Act,” to prevent any flags other than the American Flag from being flown over any U.S. embassy.

Ultra-conservative Rep. Majorie Taylor Greene of Georgia wrote in support of the legislation, “The federal government should only be flying the flag that represents ALL people, the American flag. We need to bring back pride in our country and raise the Star Spangled Banner proudly. Old Glory represents our great American military and their sacrifices to ensure our freedom. This isn’t a political issue. This is about Patriotism, and we need more of it.”

Neither minutes nor audio of the County Council meeting has been made available, other than the final vote, which was along party lines with all Republicans voting to restrict flags on government property and all Democrats voting against the measure.

Schools part of the Salt Lake County School District would be included as a government facility. Schools across the state and country have been flying flags for “Diversity Week” and other celebrations. Ultra-conservatives such as Eric Moutsos have railed against the display of Pride flags in schools in Salt Lake City.

“I explained to [Rose Park Elementary School Principal Nicole OBrien] as a former Salt Lake City Police officer, flying [Pride and Black Lives Matter] flags for little kids is very divisive and dangerous for those who disagree with the messages politically or religiously. And the kids do not need this in school of all places,” Moutsos wrote in a Facebook call-to-action post in December. “She said ‘we represent all people’ and ‘This is a safe space.’ I asked her if I can bring in all various flags that represent even more people, for example, a straight pride flag, or a Christian flag with a cross, or a All Lives Matter flag? I then went into the history of the BLM movement and where the funding is going. She said she didn’t think about that when she put them up.”

Obrien left the flags flying at the school.

Three versions of Pride flags were flying during Pride Month at the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s offices.

“We raise these flags for the month of June as a visual reminder to all members of the LGBTQ+ community: we see you, we care for you, and we join your fight for equality and justice under the law,” Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill wrote in a proclamation.

A Juneteenth Flag Raising Ceremony is scheduled on June 18 at 11:30 a.m. at the Salt Lake County Government building.

Activist Isaac Higham attended the County Council meeting said through the debate on the policy, Republican council members commented that the policy was appropriate because the approved flags represent “everyone in our community.”

“But when I look at the flag of the State of Utah, I am reminded that I am still discriminated against in the state constitution; that bigotry has not been repealed, only rendered currently unenforceable by a single tenuous vote of the Supreme Court,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “When I see the flags of the armed forces, I’m reminded of the long history of LGBTQ people being victimized and discriminated against by the armed forces. I’m reminded of their Republican president victimizing Trans service members.”

“It’s easy for those who have lived their entire lives as members of the dominant, in-group, majority to feel like these state and national symbols represent ‘everybody’ because they have always represented and protected THEM,” he continued.

Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson has the authority to veto the ordinance, though there has been no word from her office that she is considering such a move.

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