State Watch

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. to defy ban on weed, LGBTQ rights flags

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D) says he plans to continue defying a recent order from the GOP-controlled legislature banning unauthorized flags on Capitol grounds after he replaced his pro-marijuana legalization and pride flags that were removed from his office balcony earlier this week. 

The legislature in November included in its budget legislation a provision banning the display of non-approved flags, including the marijuana and LGBT-rights flags the lieutenant governor has traditionally hung from his office balcony. 

Fetterman at the time said he had no intention to remove his flags until lawmakers passed legislation legalizing marijuana for recreational use or making it illegal for employers and others to discriminate against someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The budget legislation passed late last year, and local NBC affiliate WGAL reported earlier this week that state employees had removed Fetterman's flags from the balcony and left them folded in his office. 

Fetterman told NBC News on Friday that he quickly replaced the flags, and said he will continue to do so until the legislature passes the marijuana and LGBT measures. 

"I was just making a statement. I never in a million years thought that they would actually write a law to ban them," Fetterman told NBC. "They can't understand how ridiculous this looks. They're all about free speech except when it's speech they don't like, apparently."

The tattooed, 6'8" lieutenant governor who said earlier this month that he was exploring a U.S. Senate run in 2022, added, "The GOP collectively shrugged when a couple of its members were photographed down in D.C. on Jan. 6, but my pride and weed flags are a point of outrage for them?" referring to the violent pro-Trump riot at the U.S. Capitol earlier this month. 

Shortly after the NBC article was published Friday afternoon, Fetterman shared it on Twitter, adding that his flags had been taken down again. 

"I'd *much* rather have Pennsylvania go national *for* enacting LGBTQIA+ protections and legalizing weed instead of this," he tweeted. 

The Pennsylvania legislature has previously blocked legislation on both marijuana legalization and preventing LGBT discrimination. 

Jason Gottesman, spokesperson for State House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R), told NBC that the measure against non-approved flags was part of an effort "to create some uniformity and decorum for what's outside the Capitol." 

"Members of both parties have flags and posters that they've displayed internally, but that doesn't have to do with the outside of the Capitol, which is a National Historic Landmark and the most visible building in Harrisburg," Gottesman said. 

Gottesman added that the bill had been negotiated with Gov. Tom Wolf (D), who signed the budget legislation into law to avoid a government shutdown.

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