A “pro-life” flag designed by a national advocacy group, and used by some political entities as a counterstatement to rainbow and other flags flying at government facilities, has been hanging from one of two flagpoles in front of the Alaska Governor’s Residence in the days leading up to Monday’s anniversary of the now-overturned Roe. v. Wade ruling.
The anniversary has historically been a day for pro-life rallies at the Alaska State Capitol and elsewhere, although none were scheduled this year in Juneau even before a major snowstorm closed schools and government offices for the day (the Alaska Legislature is conducting floor sessions and committee meetings at the Capitol).
But the flag — a rarity beyond the official U.S. and Alaska flags flown at the governor’s mansion and other state buildings — is a political statement by Dunleavy who in his State of the State address last year he wanted “to make Alaska the most pro-life state in the country.”
“The governor is unapologetically pro-life,” Grant Robinson, a spokesperson for the governor, wrote in an email response to questions from the Empire. “Every person conceived deserves the right to life, and the governor wanted to fly the pro-life flag to show his support for this basic human right.”
A pro-life flag hangs below of the official Alaska State Flag at the Governor’s Residence on a windless Monday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Alaska statute doesn’t specifically ban or allow flags beyond the official U.S. and state flags that are required to be displayed at state buildings.
“The official flag of the state shall be displayed with the flag of the United States only from sunrise to sunset, or between the hours designated by proper authority,” the statute notes. “However, the flag may be displayed after sunset upon special occasions when it is desired to produce a patriotic effect.”
Also, “the flag of the United States and the flag of the State of Alaska shall be displayed daily, weather permitting, in the following places: (1) on or near the main administration building of every institution under the authority or control of the state government; (2) in or near every schoolhouse during school days.”
State law does prohibit using state property for “partisan political activity,” according to Patty Sullivan, a spokesperson for the state Department of Law. However, there are limited exemptions for the governor’s residence — and she asserted the flag would not be subject to that provision regardless.
“Beyond requirements to fly the flag of the United States and the State Flag, see AS 44.09.030, nothing in state law identifies or limits what flag(s) can be flown at the Governor’s residence,” she wrote in an email Monday. “Regarding exceptions applicable to the Governor’s residence, the Ethics Act does have some exceptions to the ordinary rule against using state property for partisan political activity; however, flying a flag such as this does not equate to ‘partisan political activity.’ Rather, it represents government speech concerning a matter of public interest.”
The pro-life flag, featuring one blue and one pink baby footprint, was selected in a design competition by the Pro-Life Flag Project, whose partners include the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, Students for Life of America, Save the Storks and Focus on the Family.
“The colors blue and pink mean different things to different people,” the project’s website notes. “Traditionally, they have been the colors associated with baby boys and girls, but the two distinct colors also reemphasize the two lives present in a pregnancy: mother and child.”
Other governors, municipalities and lawmaker bodies have endorsed the pro-life flag for display or other purposes such as Nebraska’s governor declaring it “the official design for the pro-life movement.” Three U.S. senators, all Republicans, sent a “challenge” letter to President Joe Biden in September for the flag to be flown at the White House during Respect Life month, noting he flew a Pride flag during Pride Month.
The first-ever flying of an LGBTQ+ Pride flag outside Hurff Ackerman Saunders Federal Building in Juneau last June also attracted some controversy, with both criticism and praise expressed by some residents for the display.
• Contact Mark Sabbatini at [email protected] or (907) 957-2306.