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Why Pride flags replaced POW flags around Washington in June

(AP)

Washington State Rep. Jim Walsh has been getting plenty of emails and phone calls from constituents wondering why Pride flags are showing up at state buildings, in place of POW/MIA flags.

Walsh is a Republican from Washington’s 19 District which encompasses Aberdeen. He joined the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH to discuss the change.

“There is a statute that gives preference in the third position behind the the U.S. flag and the Washington state flag to that POW flag. But there are certain allowances for other flags to either be flown under that one in a fourth position or occasionally replacing the POW flag in a third position,” he said.

“The governor’s office at the beginning of June, when Pride month started, put out a — not quite an executive order — but an instruction to state agencies that the governor’s office and his office of protocol wanted the Pride flag to be flown during Pride Month.”

Rep. Walsh says that as long as it doesn’t interfere with certain specific holidays and dates of remembrance that are described in statute, it can be flown in the third position on a flag staff or in the fourth position. While a Pride flag appearing in state buildings is nothing new, what is new is the instruction from the governor’s office.

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“The governor’s office has taken a little bit more of an aggressive position in encouraging the local agencies to fly the Pride flag,” Walsh said. “They are given some discretion, so the director of the agency can instruct the local officers to fly the flag or not fly it to the particulars of the area.”

For Walsh, the controversy has little to do with any kind of prejudice against the LGBTQ community, and is more about why the POW flag was taken down rather than the Pride flag going up.

“One of my constituents said that he feels that the American flag is the ultimate Pride flag, that the U.S. flag really speaks to all groups of Americans. He was frustrated that in his town the POW flag was replaced by the Pride flag,” Walsh said.

“I think most of the people who contacted me really just wanted to know why the POW/MIA flag — which means a lot to them — was being bumped off the flag staff. It wasn’t an objection to the Pride flag.”

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Despite the controversy around this, Walsh doesn’t see this as some egregious act and remains supportive of everyone’s free expression.

“This isn’t the worst thing the governor’s done even this month,” he joked. “It’s not a terrible thing but it may have been a little insensitive to people who — especially from a military background — to whom that POW flag means a great deal, and I think that’s a totally fair and reasonable position to take.”

“They (LGBTQ) should be proud of who they are and they should be able to express who they are in a free and open way. But these are state agencies, these are these are government agencies that are flying these flags, and so every person in the state has a right to express their opinion about how a state asset — in this case a flag pole — is used.”

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.

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