“This country faces a pervasive, growing attitude of intolerance and hate — what I have referred to in the body politic as an American cancer,” Gov. Cuomo said in his bill-signing memo on Tuesday, the Associated Press reports via NBC News.
“By limiting the display and sale of the Confederate flag, Nazi swastika and other symbols of hatred from being displayed or sold on state property, including the state fairgrounds, this bill will help safeguard New Yorkers from the fear-instilling effects of these abhorrent symbols."
The law will exclude the display of the banned symbols in books, museum services and/or other forms of educational and historical purposes.
The display of Confederate flags has long been a debated issue, but has gained even more attention and criticism amid the national outcry over racial injustice, given the rebel flag's ties to the pre-Emancipation Proclamation South, as well as its history of being used by the Ku Klux Klan.
However, some critics of the new law have already expressed concerns, claiming it raises free speech issues.
“The First Amendment generally protects the expression of even hateful speech, and a statute banning the sale of materials expressing those views on state-owned land is highly likely to be held unconstitutional,” said attorney Floyd Abrams, who has argued before the Supreme Court in numerous First Amendment cases previously, via NBC News.
Cuomo acknowledged in the law memo that "technical changes" will be needed in order to ensure the law abides to free speech protections and confirmed he will address any related concerns.
In November, Mississippi Legislature voted to change its state flag, which was the last state banner in the U.S. with the Confederate battle emblem, to a magnolia design, in honor of its designated state flower.
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