Mississippi lawmakers on Saturday began the process of removing the Confederate emblem from the state flag.
“The eyes of the state, the nation and indeed the world are on this House,” the Republican speaker pro tempore of the Mississippi House, Jason White, told his colleagues.
The House voted to suspend legislative deadlines and file a bill to change the flag. The Senate was expected to vote on the suspension later Saturday. That would allow debate on a bill as soon as Sunday.
Republican Gov. Tate Reeves said Saturday that he would sign a bill to change the flag if the Legislature sends him one.
“The legislature has been deadlocked for days as it considers a new state flag,” Reeves said on social media.
“The argument over the 1894 flag has become as divisive as the flag itself and it’s time to end it. If they send me a bill this weekend, I will sign it.”
A bill will only need a simple majority to pass the House and Senate. It will say that the current flag will be removed from state law.
A commission would design a new flag that cannot include the Confederate emblem but must include the phrase “In God We Trust.”
The new design would be put on the ballot in November. If a majority voting that day accept the new design, it would become the state flag. If a majority reject it, the commission would design a new flag using the same guidelines.
“I know there are many good people who … believe that this flag is a symbol of our Southern pride and heritage,” White said.
“But for most people throughout our nation and the world, they see that flag and think that it stands for hatred and oppression.”
Republican Rep. Chris Brown of Nettleton appeared at a 2016 rally outside the state Capitol for people who want to keep the Confederate emblem on the flag.
He said Saturday that the current flag and a proposed new design should both go on the ballot.
“I don’t think we can move forward together if we say, ‘You can have any flag you want except … this one,'” Brown said.
Mississippi is the last state to display the Confederate emblem on its flag. It has been in the upper-left corner of the flag since 1894.
The Mississippi Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that the flag lacked official status. Legislators set a flag election in 2001, and voters kept the design.
Democratic state Rep. Ed Blackmon, who is black, told the House on Saturday that Mississippi needs a flag without the Confederate design so his children and grandchildren can stand at attention when they see it.
“We’ll all be proud to say, ‘That’s my flag, too,'” Blackmon said.
The current flag has remained divisive. All of the state’s public universities and several cities and counties have stopped flying it because of the Confederate symbol.
Flag supporters say the banner should be left alone or put on the statewide ballot for voters to decide its fate.
People for and against the current flag filled the Capitol on Saturday.
Karen Holt of Edwards, Mississippi, asked lawmakers to adopt a new banner with a magnolia, which is the state tree and flower. She said it would represent the “joy of being a citizen of the United States.”
“We don’t want anything flying over them, lofty, exalting itself, that grabs onto a deadly past,” Holt said.
Dan Hartness of Ellisville, Mississippi, walked outside the Capitol carrying a pole with the American flag and the current Mississippi flag. He said the state flag pays tribute to those who fought in the Civil War.
“Being a veteran, that’s important to me — that you remember these guys that fought in battle, whether they’re on the right side or the wrong side,” Hartness said.
The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.
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