Republican lawmakers in Iowa have introduced legislation to ban public buildings or spaces flying any flags other than patriotic ones.
The legislation, introduced by Sens. Roby Smith (R-Davenport), and Jake Chapman (R-Adel), stipulates the only flags allowed to fly should be the US flag, the State of Iowa flag, the prisoner of war and missing in action (POW/MIA) flag, plus official flags for political subdivisions that own or control the building.
Sioux City Journal says Senate Study Bill 3017 was introduced following a trans flag being flown for a few minutes at the Iowa Capitol building on the annual Trans Day of Remembrance on November, 20, last year.
Today Iowa Safe Schools had a trans flag fly over the Iowa Capitol, the first time a trans flag has flown over any state capitol in the country. We honor those students we work for every single day and will always have your backs. #TransDayofRemembrance #IowaProud #TDOR pic.twitter.com/dTEpI5y7pu
— Iowa Safe Schools (@iowasafeschools) November 20, 2019
The flag was flown at the request of the LGBTQ advocacy group Iowa Safe Schools.
The gesture upset some Republican lawmakers at the time, with one, State Rep. Skyler Wheeler telling the Iowa Starting Line it represented “one of the most egregious acts of political aggression I’ve ever seen … It’s another way that the Rainbow Jihad continues to give those of us who don’t agree with them a finger in the eye and push their beliefs on us.”
State officials said that two employees had not followed relevant protocols in agreeing to fly the flag. A spokesperson said all employees had been written to, reminding them of the correct protocol around flag flying.
However, for Chapman, this wasn’t enough, who said it set “a terrible precedent”. Hence the need to introduce legislation.
“I think that was completely disrespectful to the brave men and women who served in the military,” he said.
“I heard from numerous constituents who were very concerned about the precedent that’s being set. My understanding is that there were some internal policies that perhaps were violated during that demonstration but I think it’s important that at least my constituents know that we’re taking this serious.
“It’s what the flag represents and the fact that it was taken down and another flag was flown instead of the American flag and the Iowa flag and the POW/MIA flag, I think at a lot of Iowans find that to be very offensive.”
A state official contradicted Chapman’s claim that the three flags that had been flying were taken down, saying the trans flag was flown on another of the building’s poles.
The request to fly the trans flag last November came from Iowa Safe Schools. The organization’s Executive Director, Nate Monson, said they arrived at the Capitol Building as planned with their flag. It was flown for a few minutes, and they had a certificate to commemorate the flying of the flag.
He said the symbolic gesture sent a message to “trans youth that they were a part of Iowa, they are part of the country and that they matter.”
The Iowa House of Representatives is currently divided by 53 Republicans to 47 Democrats, and the Senate by 32 seats for Republicans against 18 for the Democrats.
The bill now passes to a Senate State Government subcommittee for consideration. At least one member of the committee has already voiced criticism of the bill.
Democrat Senator Tony Bisignano, of Des Moines, said he felt it was “reactionary,” adding: “We’ve got to look at the broadness of this and is it really necessary? Leave America the way it is — free. When we react and we try to write a law to outlaw, restrict, intimidate — we’re going in the wrong direction.”