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Flag-burning proposal draws ire of some Arizona lawmakers

By The Associated Press
05.06.04

PHOENIX — A group of nine Democratic legislators said a flag-burning ban should be stripped from a proposal that would make it a crime to burn a cross on someone else’s property.

Dropping the provision would give the cross-burning bill a better chance at becoming law because the proposed flag-burning ban is unconstitutional, the Democrats lawmakers said yesterday.

Some of the lawmakers said the purpose of inserting the flag-burning ban was to ensure the defeat of the cross-burning proposal.

The lawmaker who succeeded earlier this week in having the flag-burning ban piggyback on the cross-burning proposal said his only intention was to protect soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan from flag-burning protesters.

Democratic Rep. Leah Landrum Taylor of Phoenix, the only black member of the Legislature and sponsor of the cross-burning bill, said she didn’t expect her proposal would be tampered with.

“I think everyone here can agree that it’s quite an insult and a slap in the face,” she said.

The bill, HB2694, is needed to help protect minorities from people who use cross-burning as an intimidation tactic, she said.

Supporters said the proposal would close a loophole in Arizona law that makes it difficult to prosecute cross-burners.

Arizona law already prohibits the burning of crosses or other religious symbols that belong to someone else.

But proponents said the law doesn’t prohibit people from burning their own crosses on someone else’s property.

Republican Sen. Jack Harper of Glendale, who added the flag-burning ban, said his intention isn’t to kill the cross-burning bill.

“I believe when (soldiers) come back from Iraqi and Afghanistan, there will be people that want to intimidate them for protecting their country,” Harper said.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1989 in Texas v. Johnson that flag-burning was a protected free-speech right.

Harper said he believes his proposed flag-burning ban would have the same legal footing as the cross-burning bill.

“If somebody is burning the flag to intimidate somebody that legally should have the same effect as burning the cross to intimidate somebody,” Harper said.


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