Posted On 28 Jun 2020
Mississippi lawmakers on Sunday voted in favor of removing the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag, a symbol that has flown around the state for more than 120 years.
The State House and Senate approved a suspension of the rules on Saturday, allowing for debate and a vote on the bill. It then passed the House by a vote of 91-23, quickly followed by a 37-14 Senate vote on Sunday.
Speaking before the vote, state Sen. Derrick Simmons urged his colleagues to vote for the “Mississippi of tomorrow.”
“In the name of history I stand for my two sons, who are 1 and 6 years old, who should be educated in schools and be able to frequent businesses and express their black voices in public places that all fly a symbol of love not hate,” he said.
The bill’s text calls for the formation of a commission that would be in charge of a flag redesign, one that eliminates the Confederate symbol but keeps the slogan “In God We Trust.” A redesign approved by the committee will then be placed on the November ballot.
If the new design fails to be approved by voters in November, the commission will try again for a new flag that will be presented to the legislature during the 2021 session.
Gov. Tate Reeves, who previously expressed resistance to lawmakers changing the flag, said that he would sign the bill if it came across his desk.
“The Legislature has been deadlocked for days as it considers a new state flag,” Reeves said in a tweet Saturday morning. “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.”
Reeves previously said any change to the flag should come through a popular vote rather than the Legislature. He acknowledged in a Facebook post on Thursday, however, that vetoing such legislation would be “pointless.”
The current flag features red, white and blue stripes with the Confederate battle emblem in the corner and was first adopted in February 1894, according to the Mississippi Historical Society.
Other attempts to change the flag have fallen short over the years, including a 2001 public referendum in which Mississippi voters were given a chance to change the flag. The proposal failed as 64 percent voted against a redesign.
Mississippi’s decision to change the 126-year-old flag comes amid a new reckoning on racial inequality in America. Activists have fought in recent weeks to tear down monuments and dedications to historical figures that promoted slavery, such as statues around the country glorifying Confederate war generals.