First Amendment topicsAbout the First Amendment
News Story
 
Flag-desecration amendment fails in Senate

By The Associated Press
06.27.06

WASHINGTON — A constitutional amendment to ban flag desecration died in a cliffhanger vote in the Senate this afternoon, a week before Independence Day, one vote short of the support needed to send it to the states for ratification.

The 66-34 vote in favor of the amendment was a single vote short of the two-thirds required. The House surpassed that threshold last year, 286-130.

The proposed amendment, sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, read: "The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States."

It represented Congress' response to Supreme Court rulings in 1989 and 1990 that burning and other desecrations of the flag are protected as free speech by the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Senate supporters said the flag amounts to a national monument in cloth that represents freedom and the sacrifice of American troops.

"Countless men and women have died defending that flag," said Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., closing two days of debate. "It is but a small humble act for us to defend it."

Opponents said the amendment would violate the First Amendment right to free speech. And some Democrats complained that majority Republicans were exploiting people's patriotism for political advantage in the midterm elections.

"Our country's unique because our dissidents have a voice," said Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, a World War II veteran who lost an arm in the war and was decorated with the Medal of Honor.

"While I take offense at disrespect to the flag," he said, "I nonetheless believe it is my continued duty as a veteran, as an American citizen, and as a United States senator to defend the constitutional right of protesters to use the flag in nonviolent speech."

The Senate also rejected an alternative put forward by assistant Democratic leader Dick Durbin of Illinois. It would have made it against the law to damage the flag on federal land or with the intent of breaching the peace or intimidation. It also would have prohibited unapproved demonstrations at military funerals.


Update
Flag-protection group vows continued fight
Citizens Flag Alliance 'disappointed' by narrow defeat of flag-desecration amendment in Senate; House passes measure to bar condos, homeowner associations from restricting flag displays.
  • How they voted 06.28.06

    Related

    Panel spotlights uncertainties over flag amendment

    By Eric Nelson National Press Club discussion, featuring speakers both pro and con, wrangles over definition of 'flag,' what constitutes 'desecration.' 06.07.06

    Flag amendment: How Senate voted
    Roll call of June 27, 2006, Senate vote on constitutional amendment to allow Congress to ban flag desecration. 06.28.06

    The flag amendment: Reverence confronts reason
    By Paul K. McMasters When we salute the flag, we salute our commitment to free speech and the right to protest. 06.04.06

    Implementing a Flag-Desecration Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

    Flag protection: a ticklish business, Part 1

    Flag protection: a ticklish business, Part 2


    Flag-burning


    Flag-burning horizon


    News summary page
    View the latest news stories throughout the First Amendment Center Online.

    print this   Print


    Last system update: Saturday, January 24, 2009 | 20:22:58
  •  SEARCH  MORE
    About this site
    About the First Amendment
    About the First Amendment Center
    Video/RSS/podcasts
    First Amendment programs
    State of the First Amendment
    reports

    First Reports
    Supreme Court
    Experts
    Columnists
    First Amendment publications
    First Amendment Center history
    Glossary
    Freedom Sings™
    Events
    First Amendment
    Schools

    Congressional Research Service reports
    Guest editorials
    FOI material
    The First Amendment
    Library

    Lesson plans
    freedomforum.org
    Newseum
    Contact us
    Privacy statement
    Related links