Judiciary Committee sends flag-burning amendment to Senate floor

Judiciary Committee sends flag-burning amendment to Senate floor

[JURIST] The US Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] on Thursday voted 11-7 to send to the full Senate a proposed constitutional amendment [SJ Res 12 text, PDF] that would give Congress the power to prohibit the physical desecration of the US flag. The amendment has 59 co-sponsors [bill summary], but would require a 2/3 majority, or 67 votes if all Senators are present, to pass the full Senate, which is expected to vote on the resolution on the week of June 26. Observers feel the Senate vote will be extremely close, as 66 Senators are thought to support the amendment. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced similar constitutional amendments in 1995 and 2000 that were defeated by votes of 63-36 and 63-37, respectively [roll calls].

The House of Representatives approved an identical amendment [JURIST report] last summer. Three-fourths of the states must ratify an amendment for it to take effect, and the legislatures of every state save Vermont have at some point passed resolutions encouraging Congress to pass the amendment. A 2005 First Amendment Center survey [PDF text] found that 63% of those polled opposed amending the constitution to prohibit flag burning. In 1989, the US Supreme Court ruled in Texas v. Johnson [opinion text] that flag burning is free speech protected by the First Amendment. AP has more.