The debate itself is overdue. As msnbc’s Joy-Ann Reid reported, 154 years ago, South Carolina troops raised a Confederate flag in Charleston harbor on the day of President Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration. A century later, another Confederate flag was “hoisted over the statehouse in a gesture of defiance against federal court-ordered desegregation”
And this morning, South Carolina’s state Senate began debate on S. 897 – a proposal to remove the Confederate battle flag from the Capitol grounds and move it to an interior “relic room for appropriate display.”
For those hoping to see the state move forward, the debate may have been contentious, but it was constructive. The Post and Courier reported this afternoon:
Members of the South Carolina Senate have voted 37-3 to remove the Confederate battle flag from the Statehouse grounds.Sen. Lee Bright, R-Roebuck, objected to giving the bill automatic third reading, which is usually a procedural vote, on Tuesday. For the bill to be sent to the House, it will need a two-thirds vote.
I’m not an expert in South Carolina’s legislature procedures, but as I understand it, the state Senate will reconvene tomorrow for one last vote on the bill. Assuming there are no dramatic changes overnight, that vote will also be lopsided, at which point the bill will move on to the state House, where the margin is expected to be considerably closer.
Gov. Nikki Haley (R), who helped start the political debate, will sign the bill if it reaches her desk.
In the state Senate, the opposition votes came by way of just three Republican members: Lee Bright, Harvey Peeler, and Danny Verdin.
Bright, a former primary rival to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and the current state co-chair of Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) presidential campaign, did more than just oppose the proposal.
As TPM’s report noted, the far-right state senator used the debate over the Confederate symbol to highlight his opposition to, of all things, marriage equality.
Bright noted that the White House was “lit up in the abomination colors” after the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry.“This nation was founded on Judeo-Christian principles and they are under assault by men in black robes who were not elected by you,” he said.
“Our governor called us in to deal with the flag that sits out front – let’s deal with the national sin that we face today!” Bright added. “We talk about abortion but this gay marriage thing, I believe we’ll be one nation gone under, like President Reagan said. If we’re not one nation under God, we’ll be one nation gone under.”
The Republican state senator went on to say that “the devil” is “taking control.” Of what, Bright did not say.
Right Wing Watch added that Bright “directly linked” marriage equality and the racially charged flag, arguing that the former reinforces the need for “states’ rights,” symbolized by the latter.
Looking ahead to the debate in the Republican-led state House, proponents of taking down the flag are cautiously optimistic, but the latest head-count suggests the vote will be close.
* Update: The first paragraph was edited slightly for clarity.