Florida state Sen. Jay Collins (R) filed an amendment to legislation about what flags could be flown on public government buildings and properties to allow the Confederate flag to be flown at such buildings, classrooms, and offices. The legislation excluded the LGBTQ+ Pride flag from a list of approved flags.
Collins has since withdrawn the Confederate amendment, with his spokesperson saying that Collins filed it in “error” and is not a “confederate sympathizer.” The spokesperson didn’t explain why Collins had pro-confederate amendment laying around his office for him to accidentally file.
Collins’ legislation, S.B. 668, allows only the following flags to be flown: the U.S. flag; U.S. military flags; the United Nations flag; the Olympic flag; the flags of foreign countries; the prisoners of war-missing in action (POW-MIA) flag; the Firefighter Memorial flag; the flags of Florida, its counties, municipalities, public universities, and colleges; and flags indicating beach warnings. His amendment would have added the Confederate flag to that list.
While the legislation didn’t explicitly mention the LGBTQ+ flag, Maxx Fenning, president of LGBTQ advocacy group PRISM, told Miami New Times last month, “This [legislation] feels like a no-brainer that this is directed at pride flags.”
Orlando Gonzales, executive director of local LGBTQ nonprofit SAVE (Safeguarding American Values for Everyone), called the bill “a fake, postured patriotic bill” that violates free speech.
“What are they afraid of? What is the fear?” Gonzales asked the publication. “I think the fear is very clear and that is less and less America is being made of white individuals, and those individuals feel that their power is being threatened.”
The House version of the bill was introduced by state Rep. David Borrero (R), a co-sponsor of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, which prohibits the mention of LGBTQ+ identities in public elementary schools.
In a statement posted to Twitter, Collins’ spokesperson Ted Veerman said that Collins, a military veteran, “is an American patriot who personally sewed his arm back together on the battlefield in Afghanistan as he was hemorrhaging blood along with losing his leg due.”
“Any insinuation that Jay is a confederate sympathizer is disgusting,” Veerman added. “This amendment draft was filed in error and has already been pulled as we work to ensure the wording of our bill is in line with the state constitution and statute, which is what created this issue in the first place.”
The Confederate flag, created by pro-slavery forces during the U.S. Civil War of the early 1860s, was revived by white supremacists and others in the South during the Black Civil Rights era of the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s, according to National Geographic.