Ohio moves to stop bans on 'Thin Blue Line' flags

A bill would prevent landlords, mobile-home parks, condo associations and the like from restricting the display of the flags

By Megan Henry
The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio

COLUMBUS, Ohio — As a way to pay tribute to his fellow officers, retired Columbus Police Sgt. Daniel Guthrie flew the Thin Blue Line flag at his New Albany condominium.

The flag, however, violated the rules of his condo association, Rocky Ridge Condominium Complex, so he was forced to take it down.

In an effort to ensure that won't happen again, Reps. Anne Gonzales, R-Westerville, and Tim Ginter, R-Salem, came up with a bill that would prevent landlords, mobile-home parks, condo associations and the like from restricting the display of Thin Blue Line flags.

The flag, known to some as a Blue Lives Matter flag, is a black and white version of the stars and stripes with a blue line through the center. The Thin Blue Line represents police maintaining order during times of chaos.

"With individuals being able to display the flag, they will be able to display respect for officers who bravely put their lives in danger," Ginter said.

House Bill 230 was introduced in May and passed overwhelmingly in the House on Nov. 29. It is now with the Senate. The bill would not protect other flags such as those in support of gay rights or Black Lives Matter, or even flags backing sports teams such as Ohio State.

Gonzales said she thinks the bill will raise awareness for law enforcement.

"It gives recognition to police officers, for those who are alive and those who are deceased," she said.

In September, a Thin Blue Line flag was carried on the field by Northridge High School football players during a military appreciation night, which sparked a local controversy that ignited a meeting with administrators. During this summer's violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, photos circulated of white supremacists holding the Thin Blue Line Flag.

The Fraternal Order Police of Ohio supports the bill, said Michael Weinman, FOP governmental affairs director.

"There are folks who live in these complexes who would like to show their respect," Weinman said.

This is not the first flag-related bill sponsored by Gonzales.

Last year, a bill that would prohibit landlords, and condo and neighborhood associations, from restricting the display of the American flag or military service flags, such as blue-star banners or the POW/MIA flag, was signed into law.

The U.S. flag bill was inspired by Julia Lease, who flew her U.S. flag on her Whitehall town house front porch for more than 30 years, but was told by her, landlord, Minnesota-based New Life Multi-Family Management, that she was in violation of her lease and had to remove the flag.

These flag bills "could act as a catalyst" for other flag-related legislation, Ginter said, adding that he has heard discussion among other lawmakers about the possibility.

©2017 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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