Tennessee House Passes Bill That Would Ban Pride Flags In Classrooms

Tennessee’s Republican-led state House has passed a bill that would effectively ban displaying pride flags in public school classrooms, with many celebrating the move and declaring that it is “about time” a law like this was passed.

House Bill 1605 passed on Monday with a vote of 70-24 following a heated debate that was cut short by the Republican majority. The bill will now move to the state Senate.

The legislation directs schools and their staff to not “exhibit or place anywhere students may see the object,” referring to any flag other than the United States flag and Tennessee flags. The measure does not specifically mention pride flags, but does bar the display of any flags that “represent a political viewpoint,” which include flags that represent a partisan viewpoint, racial issues, gender/LGBT issues or ideological viewpoint.

According to the Associated Press (AP), “The motion to cut off debate prompted Democratic Rep. Justin Jones, of Nashville, to yell that House Speaker Cameron Sexton was out of order and ignoring people’s requests to speak. Republicans in turn scolded Jones by voting him out of order, halting his immediate comments.”

The bill was sponsored by Republican state Rep. Gino Bulso, who asked his colleagues during the debate whether parents “have the right to instill values in their own children that they agree with?”

“If you have parents across the state who want to instill in their children values represented by the pride flag, they are certainly entitled to do that. On the other hand, if you have parents who want to instill values in their children that are not consistent with the values represented by the pride flag, they have the ability to do that,” he added, according to the Tennessean.

“Everyone is entitled to mutual respect. Everyone is entitled to mutual dignity. Everyone is entitled to tolerance,” Bulso continued. “What this bill does is it preserves tolerance across the board for all parents and all school children.”

Meanwhile, Democrat state lawmakers were outraged, with Rep. Jason Powell (D-Nashville) suggesting that not displaying LGBT flags is essentially “hating on” LGBT students.

“I am proud when I walk into the public schools in my city, to see the LGBTQ flag in the classrooms, proudly put up by teachers who understand the suffering that many of their students go through,” Rep. Jason Powell, a Nashville Democrat, said, according to AP. “We should be welcoming and celebrating our students, not hating on them.”

Bulso responded to the criticisms of his legislation by pointing out that he was simply responding to concerns from constituents.

“The cause was a concern by parents in my district and one school board member that certain teachers and counselors in our district were displaying a pride flag in the classroom and on a teacher’s desk, despite the fact that parents had objected to that display,” Bulso said. “I agreed to help them.”

“What we’re doing is making sure parents are the ones who are allowed to instill in their children the values they want to instill,” he added.