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Utah legislators approve surprising new flag design

By Sarah May
|
March 5, 2023

After much debate and disagreement among the citizenry, the Utah House of Representatives narrowly approved the arguably surprising design of a new official state flag on Thursday, as The Hill reports.

The bill changing the official flag passed the state Senate earlier this year, though it remains to be seen whether Republican Gov. Spencer Cox will sign the measure into law.

Array of options considered

According to a September report in Axios, the Utah Flag Task Force assembled a staggering 20 potential designs culled from roughly 5,700 submissions that the public was invited to view and on which they could offer comments.

Some of the options elicited a great deal of reaction, with some likening certain designs to the Delta Airlines logo, a cheapened version of Tennessee's flag, and an icon from Pokémon, respectively.

The state's existing flag was reportedly considered among the nation's most unsightly, at least according to the principles of design espoused by the North American Vexillological Association, as Axios explained.

Notably, however, a beehive was featured in almost 10 of the 20 designs offered for consideration and was said by the task force to represent “community,” “industry,” and “prosperity,” though the symbol is also known to have significance to members of the Mormon faith, of which roughly 90% of the state's legislators are members.

Beehive prevails

If the flag design that was approved by the legislature ultimately gets a green light from the governor, it will indeed feature a prominently placed beehive, as The Hill notes.

The flag is broken into three distinct sections, with the top portion rendered in blue, the middle in white, and the bottom done in red.

A hexagonal shape placed within the white zone will contain a yellow beehive that incorporates a nod to the state insect, the honey bee, as well as a white star.

Those behind the flag's design indicated that its blue portion is meant to symbolize skies and faith, the white section depicts snowy mountains as well as peace, and the red area at the bottom represents the state's red-rock landscapes and perseverance.

Wider display sought

A key driver of the initiative to develop a new official state flag was reportedly spurred by a perceived lack of enthusiasm among Utahns for displaying prior iterations of the symbol.

Republican state House Majority Leader Mike Schulz suggested that the new flag design would likely result in a greater sense of pride across the state and aid in marketing efforts due to the beehive motif's easy integration onto printed items such as clothing, trinkets, and mugs.

“When you drive across the state, you see some Utah flags, but the majority of those flags you see are on state-owned buildings or government-owned buildings. There are going to be more people flying the Utah flag, and that's good for our state,” Schulz declared on Thursday, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

Republican Rep. Jim Dunnigan, however, was less convinced of the need for change. “I've heard people say when they go to Disneyland, they want to have a t-shirt with our flag, and our current flag doesn't go on a shirt as well. Fine. Adopt a state t-shirt and put this on it,” he said sarcastically. “We're apparently going to adopt a state crustacean, a state worm and a state mushroom. Let's have a state t-shirt.”

Flag's fate in the balance

While debate on the beehive design was rampant not just during the House debate last week, but also among citizens who took the time to weigh in during public comment on the matter, those unhappy with the outcome can take heart in the fact that three versions of the “historic” Utah flag may also still be flown, according to The Hill.

Having cleared both chambers of the legislature, the bill's fate is now in the hands of Gov. Cox, who has yet to give a clear signal about his intentions.

Jennifer Napier Pearce, a spokesperson for the governor, said, “We appreciate the passionate debate, and we're glad legislators were able to find common ground on this one,” but that is as far as official insight on the issue has gone to date.

The governor is facing a March 23 deadline to make a final call on the flag bill, and it is clear that a surprisingly large number of Utahns are waiting on the edge of their seats to learn whether they can proudly – and officially – hoist the beehive going forward.