TENNESSEE HOUSE PASSES BILL LARGELY BANNING LGBTQ FLAGS IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS

The Tennessee House of Representatives passed a bill yesterday that would largely ban displaying LGBTQ flags in public school classrooms.

The 70-24 vote in the Republican-controlled House sends the legislation to the Senate, where a final vote could happen as early as this week.

Republicans cut a heated debate short, leading Democratic Representative Justin Jones to yell that House Speaker Cameron Sexton was out of order and ignoring people’s requests to speak. Republicans responded by voting Jones out of order, halting his immediate comments.

Earlier, at least two people opposing the bill were kicked out of the gallery for talking over the proceedings as Democrats and other opponents criticized the legislation as unfairly limiting a major symbol of the LGBTQ community in schools.

The bill defines “displaying” a flag by a school or employee as exhibiting or placing the item “anywhere students may see the object.”

The measure would allow certain flags to be displayed, with exceptions for some scenarios. Approved flags include:

  • The U.S. flag
  • The official Tennessee state flag
  • A flag that cannot be disturbed or altered under § 4-1-412
  • The POW/MIA flag
  • A flag that represents an Indian tribe, as defined in 25 U.S.C. § 5304
  • A flag that represents a city, county, metropolitan government, or other political subdivision of this state
  • A flag that represents any unit, branch, or other division of the armed forces, including, but not limited to, an ROTC program
  • A flag that represents a country or political subdivision thereof
  • A flag that represents a college or university
  • A flag that is displayed temporarily as part of a bona fide course curriculum
  • An official school flag
  • The flag of an organization duly authorized to use a public school building; provided, that the flag of an organization duly authorized to use a public school building may only be displayed at the time and place that the organization is authorized to use school property
  • Other flags could be temporarily displayed as part of a “bona fide” course curriculum. Certain groups allowed to use school buildings may also show their flags while using the grounds under the bill.

The legislation would enforce the ban by relying on lawsuits by parents or guardians of students who attend, or are eligible to attend, public school in the district in question. The lawsuits could challenge the display of flags by a school, employee, or its agents that would not fall under the proposed criteria for which flags would be allowed in classrooms.

The Senate version of the bill would be more restrictive about who could file a lawsuit over a flag, limiting it to students, parents, or guardians of students or employees at that specific school.