Years in the making, Utah’s new state flag close to waving across the state. Here’s why.

Opponents of Sen. Dan McCay’s Utah flag bill said the change was giving in to “woke, politically correct mobs.”

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Members of the Utah State Flag Task Force, from left, Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson, Sen. Daniel McCay, R-Riverton and Rep. Stephen Handy, R-Layton discuss the new state flag designs during a press conference that reavealed all 20 semifinal designs for the creation of the new state flag Sept. 22, 2022 at the Utah Capitol. On Thursday, the Utah Department of Cultural & Community Engagement unfurled the 20 semifinal designs that are on display in the Hall of Governors. The design review committee is seeking public feedback through a SurveyMonkey form until Oct. 5, 2022. After that time, four to six flags will be presented to the task force, led by Gov. Spencer Cox and Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson. After a month-long delay, House committee members passed McCay's flag bill on Feb. 28, 2023.

The proposal to update Utah’s state flag has been stalled for nearly a month in the Utah Capitol. Senate Bill 31 was approved by the Senate at the end of January but has languished since then, waiting for the House to take up the measure. That delay ended on Tuesday morning.

A House committee gave the thumbs up to the third version of the bill from Sen. Dan McCay, R-Riverton. The latest iteration still makes the new “modern” design, which emerged from more than 5,700 proposals last year, Utah’s state flag. However, the bill designates three versions of the current flag as Utah’s “historical” flag. Any of those flags can be flown at any time for any reason.

The process of picking a design for the new flag began in 2019. After more than four years later, all that stands in the way is a vote from the full House and a final vote in the Senate.

“People don’t rally behind the flag. They rally behind the ideals and principles that a flag represents,” McCay said.

There has been some opposition to the flag change this year, with some of it appearing to be hastily organized in the final days of the legislative session.

For example, the “Save Utah’s Flag” Facebook page popped up in December last year. Before the name change, it served as the campaign page for Republican Andrew Badger, who unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 2022. On Monday, that Facebook page posted photos of a fire truck covered with around a half dozen, new-looking Utah flags outside the Capitol building while taking a shot at McCay, a frequent target of their ire.

About three dozen of those opponents were on hand for Tuesday morning’s committee hearing. They passed out miniature replicas of Utah’s flag and stickers that said “Save Utah’s Flag” or “Don’t Cancel our Culture.”

Conservative drag performer Ryan Woods, who goes by the stage name Lady MAGA USA, rattled off a gamut of culture war buzzwords while saying the flag change was disrespecting history.

“Woke, politically correct mobs are erasing history across American states in statues, names of institutions and now flags. In January 1933, the Nazis replaced the German flag. Communists past and present assert their dominance with their flags,” Woods said.

Rep. Melissa Garff Ballard, R-North Salt Lake, who voted to advance McCay’s bill, decried some of the rhetoric employed by opponents of the flag change.

“When this bill first came forward, there was an organization that didn’t put their name on the paper they were handing out. They were calling people ‘patriots’ or ‘traitors,’ depending on how they voted for the flag. That baffles me,” Ballard said.

The committee voted 7-2 to advance the bill to the full House.