Red State Takes Major Step Towards Banning Pride Flags From Classrooms

( – Local educational agencies (LEAs) and public charter schools in Tennessee are one step closer to banning pride flags from the state’s classrooms. House lawmakers voted to pass a bill that would limit the flags schools are allowed to display, effectively making highly controversial pride banners illegal. A companion bill will need to pass the Senate for the ban to become law.

Taking Action

HB1605 passed with 70 ayes and 24 nays on February 26. It proposes changes that would permit only a handful of exceptions to the flag limits. These allowances include emblems under Tennessee heritage protections and those representing POWs/MIAs; Indian tribes; city, county, and other local governments; colleges and universities; and other schools. Organizations with authorization to use school property are allowed to fly their groups’ flags while they’re conducting business, and teachers are also allowed to put up temporary displays relevant to their coursework.

The Senate’s companion bill, SB1722, was recommended for passage on February 21, where it was referred to the Senate Calendar Committee with 5 ayes and 4 nays. If passed, and Gov. Bill Lee (R) signs it, the changes would allow parents or guardians of children who attend schools run by LEAs or public charter schools to file civil lawsuits against the institutions that violate the new amendments. People who plan to file must first give the alleged offenders written notice about their allegations and must give schools 10 days to address violations before proceeding.

Heated Controversy

Pride events have stirred heavy controversy among conservative states like Tennessee, where many people have strong Christian values they feel clash with LGBTQ+ movements. Newsweek reports that in February 2023, state Republicans attempted to ban drag shows, making engaging in “adult cabaret performance” anywhere on public property where they might be in view of minors a felony. A federal judge ultimately ruled the ban unconstitutional, deciding with advocates who argued it violated free speech and opened the doors to discrimination.

Tennessee’s latest actions are among those of 14 states that have targeted different aspects of LGTBQ+ culture. Many of the moves have been in heated response to events such as “drag story hours” taking place in some public libraries and inappropriate content making its way to children at school. The American Civil Liberties Union states that there are currently at least 465 anti-LGBTQ+ bills in process in the United States, with many revolving around school curriculum censorship, the definition of sex, school sports, forced outing, and use of school facilities.

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