ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- A St. Augustine man says he has come up with a way to fly the U.S. flag on the Bridge of Lions.
"I just want to see the American flag back up," John D. Long of St. Augustine said. So he has come up with a plan.
"I found a way to fly the flag constitutionally and make everybody happy," he said.
Let's backtrack to explain how it got this far.
Around 2005, the City of St. Augustine did not allow a gay pride group to fly the rainbow flag on the Bridge of Lions. The group sued the city, and a court ordered the city to fly the rainbow flag on the bridge.
Ever since then, the city has followed the legal guidance: all flags can fly or no flags can fly.
The city chooses to ban all flags, including the U.S. flag, saying it could be unconstitutional to allow only one flag.
Long's compromise would have the U.S. flag fly across the Bridge of Lions, but groups and businesses could get permits to fly their own flags from certain poles for a two week period.
"The last three poles on each side of the bridge on each end," Long explained. "So they would have a total of 12 positions they could fly their flag."
However, that would allow controversial groups the chance to fly flags, groups such as the KKK or political organizations.
"It's a hot potato, a hot political issue but we're all American," Long said. "The American flag stands for that right to your First Amendment."
Long started a petition -- on paper and online. And he says he's received support from members of a gay pride group and from the Veterans Council of St. Johns County which represents more than 20,000 veterans.
"They want to see the flag fly again," Long noted.
St. Augustine City Manager John Regan did not flat out refuse the idea. He says the state owns the bridge, but the city is in more of a position to administer a flag program.
"We're having some discussions with the State of Florida D.O.T. about some of these issues. I think what we ought to do is schedule time where we really focus on it."
Long plans to take his idea to the city commission next week.
Regan said the city commission would have to ask city staff to review and research the issue.
For Long, he's willing to allow all groups the freedom of speech to fly their own flags if it means the stars and stripes can fly all the time.
"If I have to constitutionally be able to fly the American flag by honoring the first Amendment right, so be it.
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