The legislation passed last month bans the display of any flag other than the American flag, Pennsylvania’s state flag or flag honoring missing American soldiers at the state Capitol or its grounds.
Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman yesterday replaced the pro-weed and LGBTQ+ rights flags hanging from his office balcony with bigger ones in open defiance of a Republican-backed law banning the display. This move comes in line with his vow to continue hanging the flags from the balcony of his office — which overlooks the state Capitol's front steps and much of downtown Harrisburg — until the state legalizes marijuana and outlaws discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. "Since they passed a law that said I can't fly my old [LGBT] + weed flags from my office balcony, I figured new, bigger better ones would be legal," Fetterman tweeted along with a photo of the new flags.
Since they passed a law that said I can’t fly my old 🏳️🌈🏳️⚧️ + weed flags from my office balcony, I figured new, bigger ones would be legal pic.twitter.com/L4PIe6zX2J— John Fetterman (@JohnFetterman) February 24, 2021
The law Fetterman was referring to is a provision that Republicans—who control the Legislature—quickly tucked into a budget bill in November, banning the display of any flag other than the American flag, Pennsylvania's state flag, or flags honoring missing American soldiers at the state Capitol or its grounds. State employees removed the flags from Fetterman's balcony and left them folded in his office after the legislation passed last month and the 51-year-old has since been quite vocal about his intentions to defy the order.
So, the PAGOP sent the gay flag police to take mine down today. 🏳️🌈— John Fetterman (@JohnFetterman) January 26, 2021
The LG’s office sent the LG to fly them proudly once again.
Equal Protection Under The Law. 🏳️🌈
Legal Weed ✅ for PA.
How it started. How it’s going. pic.twitter.com/NLJ5uKt6Yy
Speaking to NBC News after the flags were first removed from his office balcony, Fetterman said: "The GOP collectively shrugged when a couple of its members were photographed down in D.C. on Jan. 6, but my pride and weed flags are a point of outrage for them?" He added that the ban is ironic at a time when conservatives regularly complaint about "cancel culture" and attacks on free speech. "I was just making a statement. I never in a million years thought that they would actually write a law to ban them," he said. "They can't understand how ridiculous this looks. They're all about free speech except when it's speech they don't like, apparently."
While Fetterman firmly believes that the measure is a direct reaction to him flying the flags, Jason Gottesman, the spokesperson for State House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, said that that isn't the case. It's merely an effort "to create some uniformity and decorum for what's outside the Capitol," he said. Members of both parties have flags and posters that they've displayed internally, but that doesn't have to do with the outside of the Capitol, which is a National Historic Landmark and the most visible building in Harrisburg."
I even had to rehang this one. 🙄 pic.twitter.com/NPuADtb1Lt— John Fetterman (@JohnFetterman) January 26, 2021
Gottesman said that the bill had been negotiated with Governor Tom Wolf—a Democrat who is elected separately from the lieutenant governor—and that the front of the state Capitol building should only be used to highlight nonpartisan causes, such as when it was illuminated in orange to promote hunger awareness. However, Fetterman is convinced that the law is all about his flags. He pointed out that the state Legislature voted down equal protection language for LGBTQ people on the same day it passed the budget bill with the flag provision. "It's flattering to be living rent-free in their head like this," joked the Harvard grad who has attracted national attention for his unorthodox style.
Whether it’s flying my 🏳️🌈🏳️⚧️+ weed flags from the Capitol or defending PA’s elections, I’m not afraid to stand up for what I believe in + do what’s right for PA.— John Fetterman (@JohnFetterman) February 24, 2021
Help me bring that same energy to the halls of the U.S. Senate ⤵️https://t.co/52BRO2CeoD
As of now, there are no clear penalties for Fetterman's defiance. The measure merely states that "the Department of General Services shall ensure that no flag other than the United States flag, the Pennsylvania flag or a flag authorized ... shall be flown" on Capitol grounds. "It's out of our hands to enforce it," Gottesman said. "We'd be hopeful that everybody would follow the law. It'd be a lot easier for everyone to just comply upfront instead of making an issue out of it."