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Flag-Burning Ban Gaining In Congress

Emboldened by the GOP takeover of Congress, Republican and Democratic representatives and senators joined forces Tuesday to propose a constitutional amendment to ban the burning or defacing of the American flag.

Supporters of such an amendment have been thwarted since 1989, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that flag-burning is protected under the First Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech.

Now, with Republicans controlling Congress, “We believe we can get the necessary votes,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. He sponsored the measure with Sen. Howell Heflin, D-Ala. Forty-five senators support the amendment, including seven Democrats - among them liberal Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California.

A similar measure also was introduced Tuesday in the House, where lawmakers said they have gained 248 cosponsors. Chief sponsors in the House are Rules Committee Chairman Gerald Solomon, R-N.Y., and Rep. Sonny Montgomery, D-Miss.

For the amendment to become law, 290 House members and 67 senators must vote for it as well as 38 state legislatures. Supporters say 46 state legislatures have passed resolutions urging Congress to pass the flag amendment.

“The flag is a unique symbol in our country,” Hatch told a news conference. “We don’t believe it’s an expression of free speech to trample on the flag, to urinate on it.”

Solomon said, “We are here today doing what the American people want us to do. … Men and women have fought and died for this flag.”