Gay Flag Burned; Charges Filed

July 7, 2008 - 8:02 PM

(CNS) - Three protesters were arrested Sunday at the Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio, after they tore down and burned a rainbow flag, which symbolizes homosexual rights, and were charged with misdemeanor counts of arson and disorderly conduct, a police spokesman told CNSNews.com.

"The flag they tore down and set on fire did not belong to them and they were charged as a result of that incident," Lieutenant John Born of the Ohio State Highway Patrol told CNSNews.com.

June has been declared as Gay Pride Month by President Clinton. The protesters faced off with gay rights advocates at the Statehouse after a protester climbed a flagpole and tore down the rainbow flag. The gay rights group had received a permit to raise the flag, Born said.

"The rules prohibit burning anything on the statehouse grounds," Born said. "But if you were to burn your own flag and adhere to the Ohio fire marshal's codes, I'm not aware of any Ohio code that would prevent that. If it were your U.S. flag and I tore it down and burned it, then I would be charged. It's a personal property issue."

There was a confrontation but police prevented it from getting out of hand by separating the two groups. Three people were charged - one with a misdemeanor account of arson, one with riot, also a misdemeanor, and a third was charged with disorderly conduct.

The Ohio Capital Square and Advisory Board, which issued the permit to fly the rainbow flag, told CNSNews.com the gay pride group had met the requirements - that they be a non-profit organization in good standing with the federal government, and pay a fee - to fly their flag.

"We have a permit that has to be filled out for any event that goes on at the Statehouse," a spokeswoman told CNSNews.com. The office deals with about 500 events a year, she added.

"If an organization is a non-profit and had filled out the proper paperwork, we would raise the flag for that one-day period," she said. "Any organization that's a non-profit and is in good standing with the federal government - that's all we need."