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Tennessee House of Representatives passes bill banning LGBT pride flags in public schools

  The Republican-led Tennessee House of Representatives has approved a bill that seeks to  ban the display of LGBTQIA+ pride flags in school...

 The Republican-led Tennessee House of Representatives has approved a bill that seeks to ban the display of LGBTQIA+ pride flags in school classrooms.

House Bill 1605, sponsored by State Rep. Gino Bulso (R-Brentwood), dictates that public schools in the state "shall not display any flag other than the United States flag and the official Tennessee state flag on or in a public school."

Bulso said the bill seeks to prevent the display of flags representing political viewpoints, including those related to partisan, racial, sexual orientation, gender or other ideological perspectives.  

The bill would still allow the display of certain official, educational and historical flags, such as flags representing the American Confederacy, Native American tribes, local governments, the armed forces, prisoners of war or those missing in action, other countries and their local governments, official flags of colleges or universities and flags of other educational institutions.

According to Bulso, he has received complaints from parents about "political flags" in classrooms. He stressed that parents have the right to instill their values in their children and said the bill preserves tolerance for all parents and students.

"Do 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," he said. "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. What this bill does is it preserves tolerance across the board for all parents and all school children."

The House of Representatives passed HB 1605 by a vote of 70 in favor and 24 against, with state representatives voting along party lines. The bill is now in the Republican-dominated Senate.

Democrats denounce HB 1605 as discriminatory

During the House's debate over HB 1605, Democrats argued that the legislation is discriminatory, targeting the LGBTQ community and infringing on students' freedom of expression.

State Rep. Jason Powell (D-Nashville), a vocal opponent of the bill, offered an amendment to safeguard students' right to express themselves within limits that do not materially disrupt school activities. Powell argued that the lack of clarity in the bill could lead to costly lawsuits against school districts.

"I am against this bill. I think it is a terrible idea. Right now, this bill is targeting students. To protect the rights of students in our state who want to continue to support and encourage their fellow students who they feel are going to be targeted as a result of the passage of this bill. We are going to have students who are going to feel unwelcome. They're going to feel like their state and their community doesn’t support them because of this bill," he said.

However, the proposed amendment was ultimately voted down, with 72 against and 24 in favor.

Meanwhile, State Rep. Bo Mitchell (D-Nashville) accused Bulso of unfairly singling out the LGBTQ community and warned against the potential consequences of divisive legislation.

"Your whole mission in this piece of legislation was to point one segment of the population out that you may not agree with. That’s awful. I’m sick of legislation like this that just brings problems," he said. "We're coming for one segment today – eventually they're going to come for you," Mitchell warned.

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