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Tennessee House passes bill banning pride flags in public schools

Tennessee’s state House voted Monday along party lines to ban partisan or ideological flags, in a GOP-led measure targeting pride flags in public school classrooms. The measure prohibits flags that "represent a political viewpoint, including but not limited to, a partisan, racial, sexual orientation, gender or ideological viewpoint." File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI/
Tennessee’s state House voted Monday along party lines to ban partisan or ideological flags, in a GOP-led measure targeting pride flags in public school classrooms. The measure prohibits flags that "represent a political viewpoint, including but not limited to, a partisan, racial, sexual orientation, gender or ideological viewpoint." File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI/ | License Photo

Feb. 27 (UPI) -- Tennessee's state House has voted along party lines to ban partisan or ideological flags, in a GOP-led measure targeting pride flags in public school classrooms.

House Bill 1605 passed Monday with a vote of 70 to 24, following a heated debate that included an outbursts from the gallery. Tennessee's state Senate could vote on the measure as early as Thursday.

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The bill bans public schools from displaying any flags other than the United States flag, the Tennessee state flag or an official school flag. Specifically, the measure prohibits the display of flags that "represent a political viewpoint, including but not limited to, a partisan, racial, sexual orientation, gender or ideological viewpoint."

While the bill does not single-out LGBTQ pride flags, Republican state Rep. Gino Bulso said he drafted the measure following complaints by parents and a school board member that "certain teachers and counselors were displaying a pride flag" in their classrooms.

"Do parents have the right to instill values in their own children that they agree with?" Bulso asked during House debate Monday. "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."

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

Tennessee Democrats disagreed, arguing that the bill -- which comes less than one week after the state House passed legislation banning gender-affirming medical care for minors -- disregards the rights of LGBTQ parents.

"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," Democratic state Rep. Jason Powell of Nashville said Monday. "We should be welcoming and celebrating our students, not hating on them."

"It seems the genuine concern behind this bill is better described as preventing social representation or a sense of belonging in one's community," said Democratic state Rep. Aftyn Behn of Nashville.

"What this bill does is narrows the gap to only allow certain flags," said Democratic state Rep. Sam Mckenzie of Knoxville. "That's the problem with this bill."

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