June 13, 1997 in Nation/World

Senate Next In Line For Flag Fever Anti-Desecration Move Already Has Gained Backing In House

Hearst Newspapers
 

After the House approved a proposed constitutional amendment against flag desecration Thursday, Rep. Gerald B.H. Solomon and veterans groups began preparing for the next battleground: the Senate.

The 310-to-114 vote in the House was Congress’ third attempt to approve the amendment since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1989 that burning the flag was protected by the First Amendment’s free speech guarantees.

The vote came two days before Flag Day, which commemorates the June 14, 1777, date when the Continental Congress adopted the Stars and Stripes as the U.S. flag.

After the vote, Solomon, a Republican from Albany, N.Y., and chairman of the House Rules Committee, met with amendment supporters in the committee’s hearing room and praised members of the Citizens’ Flag Alliance, a coalition of 100 veterans and civic groups,

Flanked by American flags, Solomon told the audience: “The work now begins. If we can just pick up these couple of extra votes …”

Solomon was referring to the Senate’s rejection of the proposed amendment two years ago following a big win in the House. Amendment supporters concede they face an uphill battle there again.

Don Wheeler, president of the Citizens Flag Alliance, said in an interview that his group plans to hold “I-love-the-flag rallies” and expects to mobilize a couple million members to drum up support for the amendment across the country.

The American Legion has already shelled out $11 million over the last three years to fight for the amendment, Wheeler said, adding, “If it takes $11 million more, we’ll spend $11 million more.”

The proposed amendment simply states: “The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States.”

The amendment stems from the 1990 Supreme Court ruling that overturned a federal flag-protection law.

That law was enacted after the court threw out flag-protection statutes in 48 states.

To be tacked onto the Constitution, an amendment must pass by a two-thirds vote in both houses - 290 in the House and 67 in the Senate if all are present - and be ratified by three-quarters of the 50 state legislatures.

Solomon said every state except Vermont has passed a resolution in favor of the amendment.


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