The 18th century flag reads “don’t tread on me.”
But in the case of SB 1326, it doesn’t mean the British or even King George III.
At the very least, it means homeowner associations. And it may have political implications.
A bill approved by the House and Senate would preclude HOAs or condominium associations from barring residents from flying the Gadsden flag. The move, if approved by Gov. Jan Brewer, would give the black-on-yellow flag with a coiled rattlesnake the same protected status as the U.S. flag, the flags of any branch of the military, the state flag, the POW-MIA flag and the flag of any Indian nation.
Backers say it’s simply a recognition that this was one of the earliest flags used by colonists in the rebellion against the British.
But Democrats see something a little less patriotic — and a little more political.
Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix, pointed out that the flag has become the symbol of the tea party. He said that sets a bad precedent.
“Are we next year going to be voting to allow our peace sign flag to be allowed?” he asked colleagues. “I’m sure most of you guys would be voting against that one.”
Gallego said the push for the Gadsden flag — and no other — is “hypocritical.”
But Rep. David Gowan, R-Sierra Vista, rejected that characterization.
“The Gadsden flag is the first American flag,” he said. “And that’s what we’re celebrating.”
Gowan said this has nothing to do with politics.
“The tea party may use the flag,” he said. “But it is a United States flag.”
Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, said both are right. He said there is a historic basis for honoring the flag.
But Gould, who sports a decal of the same flag on his legislative laptop computer, said it represents more than that in 2011.
“It’s a symbol of rebellion,” he said. “I’m rebelling against the state and federal government about wasteful spending.”
Gould voted against the legislation, but not because of what the flag represents. He said those who buy houses where there are homeowner associations have agreed to live by the terms of the restrictions. Gould said if they want to fly flags they should work with their neighbors to change those rules rather than having them overridden by state laws.
Even if Brewer signs the bill, that doesn’t open the door to homeowners flying multiple banners. SB 1326 allows homeowner association to adopt rules precluding more than two flags from being flown at once. It also allows a limit on the flagpole to the height of the homeowner’s roof — but it spells out that associations cannot preclude someone from placing a flagpole in a front or rear yard.