Judge ordered to remove pride flag from her courtroom because it shows 'bias'

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An openly gay judge has been ordered to take down the pride flag after complaints from a defense attorney who compared it to Nazi and Confederate symbols.

Judge Rosie Speedlin Gonzalez, the first openly gay judge to be elected in Bexar County, Texas, has been ordered to take down her rainbow LGBTQ pride flag by a state commission that claimed it showed "bias."

Gonzalez said the State Commission on Judicial Conduct issued her a private warning last month and said that anything that displayed rainbows, including her glasses, mouse pad, and pen, must be removed. She had previously displayed the pride flag behind her bench, alongside the U.S. and Texas flags.

She is appealing that decision, according to the San Antonio Express-News.

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The decision came after Flavio Hernandez, a criminal defense attorney, filed a motion to recuse Gonzalez from cases he handled, as well as a complaint with the Judicial Conduct commission.

Hernandez told the Express-News last week, "I may not be able to turn the dark tide of immorality sweeping through our nation like a virus. But in my small way, I voiced my support of traditional American family values."

In a written statement flagged by NBC News, he added, "Other flags expressing personal bias such as white supremacy (swastikas), or black slavery (confederacy) are also divisive and inappropriate symbols in our courtrooms."

Gonzalez's lawyer, Deanna Whitley, said Texas judges have a right to express their First Amendment rights and that there isn't evidence that the judge has shown bias in her rulings.

This wouldn't be the first time that governmental bodies in Texas have resisted displays of the pride flag. Last year, Williamson County Commissioners Court rejected a request from two justices of the peace, Stacy Hackenberg and KT Musselman, who identify as queer and gay respectively, allowing them to fly the flag outside of their office buildings.

Commissioners voted unanimously to allow only the U.S. flag, Texas flag, and county flag to be flown outside county facilities moving forward.

Hackenberg told the court that she faced criticism on social media from people who told her the U.S. flag already represented freedom and equality.

"As long as lesbians and gays risk losing their employment for marrying, then none of us are free," she said. "As long as transgender service members cannot serve our country, then none of us are free."

It has been one year since Donald Trump's ban on transgender people serving in the military went into effect. And as Hackenberg noted, there is only a patchwork of state protections barring employment discrimination against LGBTQ people. (One of the biggest questions before the U.S. Supreme Court right now is whether LGBTQ people are protected from discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.)

Each Pride Month, there are controversies over whether the Pride flag should be flown at government buildings.

Last year, Wisconsin flew the pride flag over the state Capitol for the first time. A Republican lawmaker, Rep. Scott Allen, told the Associated Press at the time that the flag was "divisive" because it "advocates a behavior or lifestyle that some Wisconsin residents may not condone."

After Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, approved the flying of the pride flag over the state capitol, state House speaker Greg Hertz, as well as state Reps. Steve Gunderson and Derek Skees, all Republicans, spoke out in opposition to the decision.

Hertz said on Facebook that the flag poles should not used for "political speech."

Bullock later responded, "Contrary to your statement that the pride flag represents a political movement, the flag actually represents civil rights and social and economic equality for Montanans of the LGBTQ+ community."

Republican opposition to flying the pride flag has also reached the federal level.

The Trump administration rejected requests to fly the pride flag over American embassies last year. A source from the U.S. Embassy in Berlin told CNN that at the time that flying the pride flag had, in the past, been "a routine thing that happens every year."

Vice President Mike Pence defended the decision at the time.

"I'm aware that the State Department indicated that on the flag pole of our American embassies that one flag should fly, and that's the American flag, and I support that," he said.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.