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Lawmakers say yes to a new Utah state flag

The latest iteration of a proposed new Utah state flag as it appears in SB31, which lawmakers are considering this legislative session.
Utah Legislature
Behold — Utah's new state flag (pending the governor's signature).

After some back-and-forth debate in the House, lawmakers in both chambers have OK’d the new Utah state flag. The final piece of the puzzle is the signature of Gov. Spencer Cox.

After moving quickly in the first days of the 2023 session, Riverton Republican Sen. Dan McCay’s “State Flag Amendments” bill had to bide its time till the final days of the Legislature. Along the way, McCay and House Sponsor Rep. Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, agreed to amend the bill to keep the state’s current flag as Utah’s “historic flag” and remove a custom license plate option to secure enough votes.

It squeaked by in the House by just five votes.

“Let there be no question that this state reveres our history,” McCay said Thursday on the Senate floor. “That we love our pioneer ancestry, we love and revere our indigenous ancestry. I believe that Utah’s future is bright.”

The new flag is the product of a lengthy design process that involved a special committee, the public and several iterations of the design.

The new flag features a prominent gold hexagon containing a beehive and a five-pointed star representing Utah’s five traditional indigenous tribes. The new flag's fields of blue and white create the outline of five mountain peaks. A red field at the bottom represents Southern Utah's famed red rock.

What's now being called the "historic flag" won't be retired completely. The two flags will be flown together on state holidays and during the legislative session. According to the bill, citizens will also have the right to use the historic flag “upon any occasion deemed fitting and appropriate.”

Some people have said the current flag — the state seal upon a blue backdrop — is too generic and does not set Utah apart from other states with similar flags. Rep. Schultz argued that the change would lead to more Utahns choosing to fly the state flag.

“I hope by the time today’s over I don’t have flag envy of other states,” he said. “I hope that we all have a flag that we can fly in Utah and we can be proud of.”

Criticism of the new flag included legislators expressing concern over replacing the current flag’s symbolism. Others just thought it was unnecessary.

“While I recognize the tremendous time and effort toward adoption of a new flag by Sen. McKay, I’m a simple ‘no’ vote,” said Sen. Derrin Owens, R-Fountain Green. “I like our current flag. I don’t see the need to re-brand or re-imagine Utah’s flag … I don’t have animosity toward the idea of a new flag, I’m satisfied with what we have.”

Sean is KUER’s politics reporter.
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