Friday, June 7, 2019

The Pride Flag Flies Over The Capitol — And Republicans Lose Their Minds Over It

State Republicans don't actually care about so-called 'Divisive' Flags — they just want something to rile their bases.

The biggest political controversy of the week in Wisconsin government appears to be the most disingenuous one as well.

In recognition of Pride Month, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers authored an executive order in which he pronounced the rainbow-colored Pride flag would soar on the rooftop on the state Capitol building.

Quinn Dombrowski/Flickr
The Pride flag would appear below the state and American flags, and would remain there for the rest of the month, on the wing of the building in which the governor's office presides. The flag was put up on Friday afternoon, per reporting from NBC 15.

Some conservative lawmakers took issue with the decision by Evers.

State Rep. Scott Allen tweeted out his disapproval, trying to make some sort of religious argument against the secular flag. "Is this any more appropriate than erecting the Christian flag over the Capitol?" he wrote.
State Sen. David Craig also went online to express his dismay because — gasp — the flag is controversial! (But only to those who are offended by equality.)

"The US and Wisconsin flags are flown over us as unifying symbols for all Wisconsinites," Craig wrote. "The governor's action today is in no doubt a statement to advance a cause. The only cause that the Capitol flags should represent is fifty states united in one republic."
That's a nice sentiment — but it's also untrue. Lawmakers fly POW/MIA flags on top of the Capitol all the time. And while those flags aren't controversial to most, to some who are conscientious objectors or anti-war, an argument could be made — the same argument Craig is making — that those kinds of flags are indeed offensive.

In fact, the number of people in the state of Wisconsin who find the Pride flag to be "controversial" at all is probably minimal. Despite passing a state constitutional ban on marriage equality in 2006, citizens of the state have since evolved on the issue. Indeed, a Marquette Law School poll from 2016 found that almost two-thirds of all Wisconsinites supported marriage equality, while less than 1-in-3 opposed the idea.

Craig and Allen are in the minority opinion here: the Pride flag is not as offensive as they think it is. There are some other flags, however, that are troublesome, that they and other Republicans in the state have not spoken out against as vociferously.

Former Gov. Scott Walker, for instance, once took a solid and decent position of opposing the use of the Confederate flag across the United States — that is, he held that opinion, before he ran for president and had to court southern voters.

In 2015, after a mass shooting occurred at a black church in South Carolina by a white supremacist, Walker balked on the question of the Confederate flag, stating that he felt it was a debate that state leaders should have themselves "after the victims' families have time to mourn," The Guardian reported.

It's not the only instance of state Republicans being silent. Earlier this year, a group of protesters descended on the state Capitol with "Don't Tread On Me" flags to protest the mere possibility that Gov. Evers might propose legislation that would put restrictions on gun ownership. Oh, and these protesters didn't just have these yellow flags, which have become symbols of far-right movements — they also had pistols and rifles.

Republicans didn't seem to care much about that flag when it was outside the steps of the Capitol. But a flag about inclusion is "controversial," they say.

Of course, there is a difference between protesters holding a flag (and again, wielding flippin' guns!) demonstrating outside of the Capitol building, and the governor endorsing and promoting a separate flag. In the latter example, whatever flag the governor flies receives a tacit government endorsement.

But the way in which Republican lawmakers like Allen and Craig go on about the supposed divisiveness of the Pride flag seems to be more political grandstanding on their part than legitimate concern. It'd be good for them to have an actual lesson on what Pride is really about.

Here's a quick primer: Pride isn't about flaunting an opinion, or promoting being gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or anything else. That's a false narrative that many on the right either ignorantly believe or purposely push to deceive others.

Rather, Pride is about the recognition of the political gains that the LGBTQ community has seen and accomplished over the past five decades. It's about celebrating those gains, but also understanding that much, much more need to be realized because full equality, despite what some may argue, has not yet been realized for those groups of people.

Allen and Craig ought to try to understand that there's nothing controversial about a Pride flag flying over the Capitol. It's a celebration of a group of people and what they've accomplished, and a promise from their government leaders that the push for full equality in society has not ended. The only thing controversial about that, is that some stand opposed to such calls to action.

Featured image credit: Quinn Dombrowski/Flickr