US flag burning amendment approved by House

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Thursday, June 23, 2005

A U.S. flag flies over New York City.

The United States House of Representatives today passed an amendment that would allow Congress to prohibit the physical desecration of the Flag of the United States. The bill (H.J.Res.10), whose main sponsor was Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.), was passed by a vote of 286 to 130. The required two-thirds was present. This is the fifth time a flag burning amendment has passed the House.

The bill will now move on to the Senate, where it stands the best chance of passing ever. If a majority of two-thirds passes the bill, it will then move on to the states to be ratified with a seven-year window open on the ratification. Each time an amendment like this was passed in the House, it died in the Senate, the last time being in 2000.

An informal survey conducted by the Associated Press suggested that the vote will be close — 34 senators surveyed opposed the amendment, the exact number required to defeat it. However, supporters of the amendment are optimistic that the amendment will pass because four seats were gained by the Republicans in the election last November.

The amendment seeks to bypass the 1989 Supreme Court case Texas v. Johnson which ruled that desecration of the flag was legal; flag burning was established to be a form of protected speech under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. In New Zealand, a 22-year-old law banning the destruction of their flag was also recently overturned as it was considered an act of free speech.

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