State Watch

Cuomo signs bill banning sale of Confederate flag on New York state grounds

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) on Wednesday signed a bill into law banning the sale or display of Confederate battle flags on state property.

The bill also banned other “symbols of hate,” including swastikas and other known insignias historically associated with racism and other violent acts against targeted religious or ethnic groups, a local NBC affiliate reported.

Public display of such symbols will only be permitted if proper educational or historical purposes can be provided.

The law will go into effect immediately.

The newly enacted law comes at the end of a tumultuous year. Following the death of the unarmed Black man George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody in May, many institutions, including NASCAR, banned the display of Confederate battle flags.

Additionally, the state of Mississippi approved a new design for its state flag last month after voters moved to update the flag due, which had been the last one in the nation that included a Confederate symbol.

Cuomo said in a bill-signing memo Tuesday the law is intended to counter intolerant racist and anti-Semitic behavior, the New York Post reported.

The governor added he thinks the law will need “technical changes” to ensure free speech protections in the U.S. are not infringed.

“While I fully support the spirit of this legislation, certain technical changes are necessary to balance the State’s interests in preventing the use of hate symbols on state land with free speech protections embodied in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution,” Cuomo said.

A First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams said Cuomo could face more problems beyond a quick “technical” fix.

“Governor Cuomo is correct that the First Amendment may require changes in the law in light of the First Amendment. A private entity can choose to sell or not sell offensive symbols but when the government bans the sale of offensive, but constitutionally protected symbols, on its property the First Amendment comes into play,” Abrams told The Post.

A spokesperson for Cuomo’s office told The Post his legal team would review the bill alongside the state Legislature to include a potential amendment.

The Hill reached out to the governor’s office but has not immediately received a response.

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