Mississippi came close to changing its state flag on Saturday when more than two-thirds of the state’s legislature voted to suspend the rules to allow a vote on the removal of the Confederate battle emblem from its design.
For the first time, Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, said he would sign a bill to change the flag. He previously said he would not veto the bill and said voters should decide to change the flag.
“The argument over the flag of 1894 has become as contentious as the flag itself and it is time to end it,” he said in a statement on Twitter. “If they send me an invoice this weekend, I will sign it.”
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“For economic prosperity and a better future for my children and yours, we must find a way to unite. Heal our wounds, forgive, resolve that the page is turned, trust each other. With the help of God, we can, “he added.
The flag, which has been the subject of controversy for years, is re-examined for its links to racism as America examines historical symbols, including statues and names of buildings, amid demonstrations of racial equality .
Supporters of the change include Bertram Hayes-Davis, a descendant of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
“The battle flag is a historic symbol of conflict and should be displayed appropriately in museums as such,” Hayes-Davis, 66, told Newsweek last week. “But it’s not something that, in my opinion, requires public exposure. “
“The battle flag is a historic symbol of conflict and should be displayed appropriately in museums as such. But it’s not something that I think requires public exposure. ”
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Debate on the bill can begin on Sunday and lawmakers could then vote to remove the emblem.
“The eyes of the state, the nation and, in fact, the world are on this House,” state representative Jason White, Republican President pro tempore, said on Saturday. “I know there are a lot of good people who … believe that this flag is a symbol of our pride and our heritage in the South, but for most people across our nation and the world, they see this flag and think it represents hatred and oppression. ”
According to the bill, a flag committee would create a new design that would include “In God we trust”, potentially as part of the official state seal, according to FOX 40 in Jackson, Miss.
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State representative Chris Brown, a Republican, said he believed the current and proposed design should be on the voters’ ballot.
“I don’t think we can move forward together if we say, ‘You can have any flag, except … this one,'” said Brown. “If we put the current flag on the ballot with another good design, the people of Mississippi will change it. … Let’s not steal their joy. ”
In 2001, the last time the Confederate symbol was removed from the flag on the ballot, voters decided to keep it.
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While the suspension of the rules required a two-thirds vote, the passage of the bill only needed a majority.
“I never thought I would see the flag fall in my lifetime,” said African-American Democrat Senator Barbara Blackmon.
The House voted 84-35 and the Senate 36-14 on Saturday, according to FOX 40.
Robert Gearty of the Associated Press and Fox News contributed to this report.