Washington lawmakers asked Congress on Wednesday to make it illegal to physically desecrate the U.S. flag.
The state House voted, 76-19, to approve a resolution, HJM4000, asking Congress to propose a constitutional amendment against flag burning and other forms of desecration.
Rep. John Pennington, R-Battle Ground, said flag burning is a “slap in the face to every veteran who has served their country.”
Rep. Bob Basich, an Aberdeen Democrat, agreed. “We should support this measure to honor all veterans living or dead,” Basich said.
But others disagreed, saying that burning the flag is free speech, protected under the Constitution.
“If we are free to wave the flag, we must be free to burn the flag,” said Rep. Julia Patterson, D-Seattle.
Rep. Sandra Romero, D-Olympia, said that to her, desecration means more than just burning the flag. She said it also includes using the flag for commercial purposes.
“Ties, T-shirts or beach towels that display the American flag, to me, are acts of desecration, but we are able to do these things because of freedom of expression,” she said.
The measure now goes to the state Senate for its vote.
Congress passed the Flag Protection Act of 1989 which made it a crime to burn the flag. But the law was overturned in 1990 by the U.S. Supreme Court on grounds that it violated free-speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.
So far, 44 states have asked Congress to propose an amendment against flag burning.