South Carolina Takes Huge Step Toward Getting Rid Of Confederate Flag

Photo: Grace Beahm/AP Photo.
Update: South Carolina's state Senate voted Monday afternoon on a proposal remove the Confederate flag from the Capitol grounds, and the state's House of Representatives will debate the bill on Tuesday. Governor Nikki Haley could sign it by the end of the week.

This story was originally published on June 22, 2015.

The Confederate flag flying over the grounds of the South Carolina Statehouse has been a source of deep pain for many people still reeling from the racially motivated murders of nine people inside a Charleston church last week. At a press conference on Monday afternoon, Republican Governor Nikki Haley called for the flag to be taken down, according to a report from The Post and Courier.

"Today we are here in a moment of unity in our state to say it’s time to move the flag from the Capitol grounds," Haley said.

She continued, "For good and for bad, whether it is on the Statehouse grounds or in a museum, the flag will always be a part of the soil of South Carolina. It is an integral part of our past, but it does not represent the future of our great state."

Haley has defended the Confederate flag in the past, and last year she said that South Carolina had moved past its ugly racist history. “But we really kind of fixed all that when you elected the first Indian-American female governor,” Haley said, according to Salon. “When we appointed the first African-American U.S. senator, that sent a huge message.”

Unfortunately, removing the flag won't be as simple as heeding an order from Governor Haley. The state legislature passed a law in 2000 that requires the flag to stay up next to a monument to Confederate soldiers. At the time, according to the Post and Courier, it was part of a compromise that removed the flag from the statehouse's dome. According to Haley, the legislature will deal with the flag question "in the coming weeks."

Despite the fact that everyone from former and current Republican presidential candidates to racial justice activists are calling for something to be done now, the Confederate flag has a surprising amount of legal protection. Both houses of the state legislature will have to agree by a two-thirds majority to take down the flag before it can happen.

On Friday, a Republican state represenative announced a plan to introduce a bill to do just that. "I had a friend die Wednesday night for no reason other than he was a black man,” Rep. Norman Brannon said on MSNBC, speaking of his late colleague Clementa Pinckney, who was gunned down in Charleston. “Sen. Pinckney was an incredible human being. I don’t want to talk politics but I’m going to introduce the bill for that reason.”

This story is breaking and will be updated as more information becomes available.

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