OPINION | Erasing history: Utah state flag change was unnecessary

From the left is the current Utah state flag, which was adopted February 2011. Also featured is the incoming redesign of the Utah state flag. The new flag holds a beehive symbolizing prosperity and identity, the five-pointed star reflects our state’s founding and statehood, and the red rock valley highlights southern Utah’s scenery. Miki Akiyama | Sun News Daily

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The Utah flag change was left up to the politicians, not the people of Utah, thus taking away Utahns’ voices.

Governor Spencer Cox signed Senate Bill 31 into law in March 2023. This will change the state’s flag to a new, less meaningful flag: the Beehive Flag.

Utah’s new official state flag. Courtesy of the Utah Department of Cultural and Community Engagement

When the bill was proposed, many voters asked their representatives to vote against it. This didn’t work and the bill was passed. A group of voters sponsored a referendum to petition SB31. This would be presented to voters at our next general election for approval or rejection in November 2024. It was called the Utah State Flag Initiative.

The Utah State Flag Initiative’s petition required 134,298 signatures from registered voters. The signatures had to be collected and turned in by Feb. 15.

Volunteers were gathering signatures on the petition for all voters to have a say on the state flag. The initiative did not go through and failed as they were not able to get enough signatures. Now Utah’s flag is being changed to the Beehive Flag.

A total of 99,125 signatures were submitted, but only 81,992 signatures were valid. Others were not counted because they did not meet the signature requirements. People gathering signatures had to be residents and 18 years old. Circulators had to complete and sign the verification sheet of each packet and the circulators could not sign their own signature sheets they were circulating. As a result, we lost our historic and meaningful flag for a bland flag.

The new flag will replace the original flag March 9.

The Beehive Flag will have a blue line at the top, a white stripe in the middle and a red stripe at the bottom. There will be a gold hexagon ring on the flag, and inside the hexagon will hold the beehive.

But when you look at it, you have no idea the history and symbolism the flag contains. The Beehive Flag is less obvious in its meaning. It took away the wording and dates on the original flag, replacing them with simple colors and shapes with no wording.

The current flag has an eagle, beehive, bees and flowers. It reads “Industry Utah 1898” and is circled by a gold ring with spears coming out on either side in an X shape.

The state motto “industry” and the beehive represent hard work and progress. The American flags on the original Utah state flag show Utah’s commitment and support to the United States. The year 1847 is when the pioneers entered Salt Lake Valley, and 1896 is the year Utah became a state. The six arrows are a representation of the six Native American tribes in Utah.

There is so much symbolism in the original flag. There is symbolism in the new flag, but it is just harder to understand the meaning and symbolism of the new flag. The eagle has always been a representation of freedom, peace, protection and war. The sego lily featured on the flag is Utah’s state flower, which is a representative of peace. 

I see no benefits in changing the state flag. The old flag is a beautiful state flag full of symbolism and history, and it is great the way it is.

With so much symbolism and deeper meaning, why would we want to get rid of it? The argument starts with people saying the original flag doesn’t represent them. But there is so much more representation in the original flag. The integrated parts of the current flag are a good representation of Utah’s rich history.

The Beehive Flag loses so much symbolism. We lose the arrows that represent the Native Americans and the eagle which proudly displays patriotism on the original flag.

Aside from the new flag being simpler and easier to read, I don’t see a benefit to changing it. There is no reason for more money to go into something that we don’t need to fix or change. The flag has been the same for so long. Why do we have to change it now?

There are other problems and issues we could be focusing on and putting time, effort and money into. Issues like crime, homelessness, feeding the hungry and trying to make this a better world are more important than a flag.

If we change the flag, we change part of Utah’s history as well. That wouldn’t be fair to do. We should leave the flag as is and appreciate the history and meaning behind it.

For the representatives and politicians to make such an impactful change without it being taken to a vote by the Utah residents is a shame and should not be allowed.

Taking the meaning and symbolism out and replacing it with something bland and not well thought out is wrong. As a result, our representatives are not fully representing “We the People.”