Lawsuit Against Lexington's Flag Ban May Not Fly

Lexington, VA - Southern heritage groups are calling Lexington's ban on flags unconstitutional, and they've vowed to fight the new ordinance in court.

In a four to one vote, Thursday, Lexington's city council decided to ban flags on city property -- except the US, Virginia, and Lexington flags.

Constitutional experts say the Sons of Confederate Veterans probably doesn't have a case based their first amendment right to freedom of speech, since the city has the right to control speech on its own property, which includes the flag poles downtown.

Sons of Confederate Veterans Spokesman Brandon Dorsey is angry about Lexington's new ordinance -- restricting which flags can fly on public property there.

"We're considering a general boycott of Lexington for tourists, letting everybody know about the attitude that exists here," said Dorsey.

He's consulted with attorneys who argue the new law is discriminatory since the issue reached a boiling point last year, when the group wanted to fly confederate flags from light poles downtown.

"It is clear that they are doing this to prevent the Sons of Confederate Veterans and anyone else who would promote confederate heritage or history from displaying flags on these poles," said attorney Kirk Lyons by phone.

Washington And Lee University Law Professor Anne Massie says the government has the right to control speech on its own property and calls the law constitutional because no other organization can use the city's flag poles.

"What it can't do is pick and choose," she said.

But Dorsey, and at least one attorney, say what makes this case different is a 1993 federal injunction that the Sons of Confederate Veterans filed against Lexington to prevent the city from banning confederate symbols.

Massie doesn't think that argument will get very far either.

She says the city "may decide whether it wants to close that property down and no longer make it available to private groups."

The lawsuit will likely be filed in federal court. The SCV hopes to hire an attorney within the next month.