Utah Senate approves new state flag with altered 5-point star design | News | Salt Lake City Weekly

Utah Senate approves new state flag with altered 5-point star design 

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click to enlarge Adoption of a new state flag would be coupled with the creation of a new license plate for Utah drivers. - COURTESY UTAH SENATE
  • Courtesy Utah Senate
  • Adoption of a new state flag would be coupled with the creation of a new license plate for Utah drivers.

CAPITOL HILL—Members of the Utah Senate voted 17-10 for a new state flag on Monday, teeing up a final round of debate in the House where opposition is expected to be stronger amid unfounded and ill-conceived suspicions of a "woke" agenda motivating the change.

The new design—known colloquially as the "Beehive Flag"—features a red rock canyon, snow-capped mountain range and blue sky surrounding a central hexagonal seal with a stylized beehive and five-pointed star. If approved by the House, it would replace the state's current flag, which boasts a busy morass of symbols and images in a style derided by flag enthusiasts as a "Seal on a Bed sheet"—or "S.O.B."—making it virtually indistinguishable at a distance from roughly half of the nation's state banners.

Senators on Monday made a slight alteration to the star before their final vote, moving from the 8-pointed model recommended by a state flag task force to a more traditionally American 5-point star (both the 5-point and 8-point stars are said to represent Utah's indigenous tribes). The task force issued its recommended design in November following several rounds of public engagement that involved the participation and feedback of thousands of residents.

"In the original [current] design, the public was not involved at all," said Sen. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, the bill's Senate sponsor.

Senate Republicans were evenly split on the bill, with the chamber's minority Democrats casting the deciding votes in favor. Following the vote, Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, said that while he personally supports the change, he was unable to vote in support after gauging the temperature of his constituents.

"I had more people who didn't care about the flag than supported it," Vickers said. "It was one of those bills that I voted against but was cheering [that] it passed."

The idea of updating Utah's flag has generated vocal debate, with supporters pointing to the lack of popular adoption of the current flag as evidence of its failure as a state symbol, while opponents object to a perceived loss of history. That opposition has overlapped with broader far-right criticisms of "wokeness" and "cancel culture," with skeptics of the Beehive Flag perceiving in it an attempt to alter or abandon Utahns' relationship with their past.

During one committee hearing for the flag bill, SB31, opponents distributed flyers listing the "patriots" on the Hill who have publicly objected to its adoption. Most of those listed were members of the House.

Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, said he initially found the proposal of a new flag "idiotic," but came to support its adoption over time. He credited some of his thinking to the encouragement of Congressman John Curtis, R-Utah, who as Provo Mayor oversaw the creation of a new city flag and who recently visited with Senate Republicans. While some Provo residents objected to the change at the time, Weiler said, the city has come to embrace it over time.

"I think sometimes as leaders we need to lead out on issues—and sometimes the public takes a year or two to catch up," Weiler said.

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About The Author

Benjamin Wood

Benjamin Wood

Lifelong Utahn Benjamin Wood has worn the mantle of City Weekly's news editor since 2021. He studied journalism at Utah State University and previously wrote for The Salt Lake Tribune, the Deseret News and Entertainment Weekly

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