Lieutenant gov’s flags fly in the face of some PA lawmakers

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FILE – In this Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 file photo, Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman speaks at a news conference in the governor’s Capitol reception room in Harrisburg, Pa. A provision slipped into lame-duck budget legislation Friday, Nov. 20, 2020 would ban flags not approved by lawmakers from flying at the state Capitol — such as the pro-marijuana legalization and LGBTQ- and transgender-rights flags that Fetterman hangs from his second-floor outdoor balcony that overlooks the building’s broad front steps. (AP Photo/Marc Levy, File)

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor, Democrat John Fetterman, may have gotten under somebody’s skin.

A provision slipped into lame-duck budget legislation Friday would ban flags not approved by lawmakers from flying at the state Capitol — such as the pro-marijuana legalization and LGBTQ- and transgender-rights flags that Fetterman hangs from his second-floor outdoor balcony that overlooks the building’s broad front steps.

In an interview, the irreverent Fetterman said he hadn’t known about the provision until told by a reporter Friday.

But, he said, he had no intention of taking them down — unless lawmakers pass legislation to legalize marijuana for recreational use and make it illegal for employers and others to discriminate against someone because of the sexual orientation or gender identity.

“I would be delighted to take them down if they give us that,” Fetterman said. “That’s the reason I’m flying them.”

The Republican-controlled Legislature has blocked legislation on both fronts. Fetterman’s marijuana flag flies year-round, while he flies LGBTQ- and transgender-rights flags during Pride Month in June.

“Are they going to send the gay pride police to come and seize them? I didn’t know we had that division in the state police,” Fetterman said.

Democrats pointed at Republicans for inserting the authorless provision.

A spokesperson for House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre, would not say whether it had anything to do with Fetterman’s flags, only that “it has to do with providing for uniformity and decorum for what is displayed on the outside of the Capitol.”

Even before he was elected in 2018, Fetterman was something of a media darling and progressive hero.

The Harvard University-educated 51-year-old gained notoriety as the mayor of a small, poverty-ridden steel town near Pittsburgh who was outspoken about economic inequality and went to unusual lengths to reinvigorate Braddock, from starting youth programs to attracting artists, farm projects and edgy new businesses to vacant buildings and lots.

He is also impossible to miss: the 6-foot-8, bald, tattooed and glowering Fetterman is most often seen wearing short-sleeve work shirts, cargo shorts and high-top shoes — a uniform that recently moved magazine GQ to declare him an “American taste god.”

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Follow Marc Levy on Twitter at www.twitter.com/timelywriter.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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