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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Bills seek to ban display of Confederate flag on public property across Florida



Confederate Flag Rally

The controversial debate over the continued display of the Confederate flag has a chance to play out in the Florida Legislature next session.

A bill filed Thursday in the Florida House would prohibit local, county or state government entities in Florida from displaying the Confederate flag or similar symbols. HB 243 was introduced by Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg. (Download HB 0243 Display of Confederate flag)

An identical bill, SB 154, was filed in August by Democratic Sens. Geraldine Thompson of Orlando and Dwight Bullard of Cutler Bay. That bill has been referred to four committees, so it faces an uphill battle for passage, if it's considered at all. The House bill had yet to be assigned to any committees, as of this afternoon.

The bills specifically ban the display of "any flag or emblem of the Confederate States of America or its military or naval forces at any time within the years 1860 to 1865." Such items would be barred from any building, structure or property that's owned or leased by a governmental entity in the state.

The bills don't go so far as to criminalize the act of displaying what would become forbidden symbols. The proposed law would give the option for someone to sue the offender to force them to take it down.

It's unclear what impact these bills, if enacted, would have on historical displays in government buildings. For instance, Florida's Capitol has several references to the Confederate flag from murals on the wall to the seal of the state Senate.

The racially-motivated church shootings in Charleston, S.C., in June spurred a national debate over the continual use of the Confederate flag, which many equate with racism because of its resurgence during the civil rights movement as a symbol of oppression against blacks. But supporters of the flag say it has historical significance because it represents not racism, but ancestral pride and heritage for descendants of Confederate soldiers in the Civil War.

This summer, several counties and municipalities across the state have grappled with whether to keep the rebel flag on public display. For instance, Walton County voted in July to replace the "Southern Cross"-style Confederate flag at its courthouse with an earlier iteration known as the stars and bars, a flag which depicts 13 stars arranged in a circle next to horizontal red and white bars.

Photo credit: News Herald / AP

[Last modified: Friday, September 25, 2015 3:32pm]


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