Senate Votes To Remove Confederate Flag
( 4UMF NEWS ) Senate Votes To Remove Confederate Flag:
The South Carolina Senate gave key approval Monday to remove the Confederate battle flag and its flagpole from the Statehouse grounds.
The 37-3 vote came after several hours of debate and defeat of a handful of proposed amendments. Under Senate rules, it must pass by a two-thirds majority again; that vote will take place Tuesday.
State lawmakers began debate Monday on the fate of the Confederate battle flag, less than three weeks after a deadly shooting at a predominantly black church brought renewed attention to the controversial Southern symbol.
The Senate proposal, which would remove the flag from a Confederate monument on the Statehouse lawn, would go to the House for consideration. The bill requires a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate to be sent to Gov. Nikki Haley, who strongly supports it.
Voting against the measure were three Republicans: Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler of Gaffney, Sen. Lee Bright of Spartanburg County and Sen. Danny Verdin of Laurens.
Sen. Vincent Sheheen, a Democrat and chief author of the flag bill, told the Senate that "quiet bigotry" still exists in the state.
"It's about how to heal wounds that stretch back many years," Sheheen said of removing the flag. "We've been pulling the Band-Aid off really slowly, and it hasn't been good for us."
Sen. Larry Martin, a Republican, said his view on the flag changed after the June 17 attack that left nine people dead at the historic Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. Police say accused shooter Dylann Roof reportedly shouted racial epithets during the bloodbath, and several photos of the suspect showed him posing with a Confederate flag.
Now, Martin said, the flag must go.
"It isn't part of our future. It's part of our past," he said.
A survey by the Charleston Post and Courier, the Associated Press and others suggested there is enough support to remove the flag. But not all lawmakers are pressing for a quick decision.
Bright had earlier asked for an amendment to require a nonbinding public referendum on the issue. The flag, he said, should not be blamed for the tragedy in Charleston.
Approval of the amendment could have delayed action on the flag for months, but the amendment was rejected overwhelmingly. Verdin's push to fly the flag for 12 hours on Confederate Memorial Day also was turned aside.
Backers have been expressing hope that the bill could reach Haley's desk by week's end. Plans call for the flag to be unceremoniously removed and taken to a museum soon after the governor signs the bill.
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