Society

Gay Group's Rainbow Flag Draws Complaints At Tennessee College, But School Says it Is Free Speech

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A rainbow-colored flag with stars that resemble the stars on the American flag has sparked controversy at a college in Tennessee.

MT Lambda, the LGBT group at Middle Tennessee State University, recently hung the flag as part of its display in the school library, celebrating the group’s 25th anniversary as well as LGBT History Month.

The reason for the controversy, the flag’s critics say, is that the inclusion of the stars in the rainbow-striped design makes it an illegal desecration of the American flag.

“To take that flag and to change it is what’s wrong,” MTSU grad Ralph Dye told WMSV TV, a Nashville station. “I don’t care if they’re right, left or center.”

The school’s dean’s office also received complaints about the flag. And another TV station, NewsChannel 5, received an e-mail saying, “This is just un-American and against the law. They removed red white and blue replaced with the rainbow.”

But the LGBT group’s president says that the flag has been used for several years and the new controversy comes a surprise.

"Desecrating an American flag would entail ripping, or shredding, or burning an actual 13 red and white strip American flag, and that's not what this is," said Joshua Rigsby. “We've used this flag at many other events. We walk in homecoming with this flag every year and it is not something new.”

The university says it looked into the legality of the flag, contacting the state attorney general’s office after receiving the complaints, but everything checks out.

“Their advice to us, since they are a registered student organization, and that this is constitutionally protected free speech, that their right of expression is protected," university spokesperson Andrew Oppmann told NewsChannel 5.

SOURCES: NewsChannel 5, WSMV TV