Lawmaker aids tenants in fight
to show flag

Article Courtesy of Palm Beach Post
By Gariot Louima
Posted January 21, 2004 

A local lawmaker has come to the aid of a Boynton Beach couple threatened with eviction if they don't stop displaying an American flag in their bedroom window.

Managers at the Aventine apartment complex gave Susan Hudson and her boyfriend, A.J. Hemsey, until today to remove their flag or hide it behind white blinds. The flag violates the couple's lease and community rules that ensure uniformity, property managers contend.

State Rep. Adam Hasner, R-Delray Beach, who said those rules violate "fundamental rights," has arranged for Boca Raton attorney Peter Feaman to represent the couple for free. Today, Hasner will announce his intent to introduce legislation that would protect a renter's right to fly a flag.

"We have men and women serving our country and paying the ultimate sacrifice and patriotic citizens want to demonstrate their support of our country by displaying a flag," said Hasner, who will make the announcement at the South County Courthouse in Delray Beach as Feaman files a lawsuit on the couple's behalf that argues Aventine has no grounds for eviction. 

"The management company is missing the big picture here and I'm confident that the Florida Legislature will support legislation that extends the right to display a flag to renters," Hasner said.

Hudson said she bought her flag on Sept. 11, 2001. When she and Hemsey moved to their apartment north of Woolbright Road, they hung the flag in a bedroom window so that it is visible from the community's main gate. Hemsey said she doesn't intend to take it down until the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan end. 

The Archon Group bought the property last year. Company officials recently took a tour of the community and noticed Hudson's flag. On Jan. 12, property manager Mary Jane Fullam told the couple to remove the flag or hide it behind white blinds, which are provided with the apartment. 

Hudson then sent an e-mail to Hasner, who called Feaman, president of the Boca Raton Republican Club. 

Feaman said Hudson and Hemsey are current on their $1,085 monthly rent and can't be evicted for simply hanging a flag in their window. The lawsuit will argue the property owner is in breach of the lease, he said.

"The primary purpose is to stop the eviction," Feaman. "What is it about an American flag that offends people?"

Fullam has said renters aren't allowed to alter their apartments in any way. This includes hanging banners, streamers or even curtains that are visible outside the apartment. Fullam could not be reached for comment late Tuesday.

A law passed in the 2002 session allows homeowners and condo dwellers to display flags, Feaman said.

Hasner said his bill would expand on the law, providing some protection to renters.

"There is no more important fundamental right than someone's right to display an American flag," he said. "Renters should be granted the same rights homeowners have. How can flying an American flag be wrong?"

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