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Bill that would ban certain flags on public property back on agenda

The law makes it a Class C misdemeanor to display a flag outside an approved list.

LGBTQ Drag Me to the Capitol march
Members and allies of the LGBTQ+ community march on the Alabama State Capitol to protest bills targeting drag shows and trans rights. Jacob Holmes/APR
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A bill by State Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa, will come up once again in committee this week after members of the public thoroughly criticized the legislation last week.

Allen asked to withdraw SB4 after the public hearing last week. It had been on an agenda the week before, but the Senate State Governmental Affairs Committee meeting was canceled for lack of quorum.

Camille Bennett, founder of Project Say Something, challenged Allen to “make it make sense.”

“Last year, my 73-year-old mother’s African drumming group presented the Juneteenth flag,” Bennett said Wednesday during the hearing. “According to SB4, our county commissioners—who happen to be a body of far-right, conservative white men—can have the power to charge a group of Black community elders with a crime for flying a flag on their property, even if that flag represents a national holiday; make it make sense.”

Bennet also argued the bill could criminalize the display of non-approved flags by students of state universities, even in their private dorm rooms.

The law makes it a Class C misdemeanor to display a flag, outside an approved list within the legislation, on public property. 

The approved flags are:

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  • The US flag
  • The official flag of any nation or state that preceded the United States or Alabama in controlling any territory in the state
  • The official flag of any state, territory or district of the United States
  • The official flag of any Alabama municipality
  • The Boy Scouts flag
  • The Girl Scouts flag
  • The American Red Cross flag
  • The American Ex-Prisoner of War flag
  • The League of Families POW/MIA flag
  • The Freedom flag
  • Any other flag approved by the entity in control of the property

The bill exempts certain public spaces from the restrictions including roadways and stadiums.

“It’s logical to say that SB4 was drafted with the intent to criminalize Alabamians with different value systems, and targets marginalized communities who often find it necessary to lean on their first amendment rights,” Bennett said. “It makes no sense because it is unconstitutional and senseless.”

Former state representative Patricia Todd, the state’s first openly gay lawmaker, said the bill would extend to the Pride flag, which she noted is flown in Birmingham every June for Pride Month. It would also apply to demonstrators flying LGBTQ+ flags on the property of the capitol, as they did last year at the “Drag Me to the Capitol” march that brought hundreds in opposition to anti-LGBTQ legislation.

Todd urged lawmakers to consider that members of the LGBTQ community “are your family members or your neighbors.”

”We go to church with you. We take care of me when you’re sick,” Todd said. “And most importantly, we’re your constituents. We’re not going to be erased from existence and I really wish we would step back and talk to each other about the issues that affect us and get to know more about our community.”

The bill returns to committee for consideration on Wednesday.

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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