Mississippi lawmakers passed a bill to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the state’s flag after the divisive symbol had come under renewed criticism in the wake of racial injustice protests across the nation.
The bill called for the emblem to be immediately removed from the current flag and the creation of nine-member commission to design a new flag that cannot include the Confederate battle emblem, but should include the phrase, “In God We Trust.”
Voters will either approve or reject the new design on Nov. 3. If they reject it, the commission will have to design another flag with the same guidelines.
Gov. Tate Reeves said Saturday that he will sign a bill to change the flag if it was approved by the Republican-controlled legislature, adding that the argument over the flag had become “as divisive as the flag itself and it’s time to end it.”
A spokesperson for Reeves told the Mississippi Clarion Ledger that the governor would not sign the bill on Sunday, but would sign it “in the coming days.”
“The Governor does not want to rush this moment in history for our state,” the spokesperson said. “Once the Legislature sends the final bill to his desk and he’s had the opportunity to review it, Gov. Reeves will sign the bill in the coming days.”
Mississippi is the last remaining state to officially fly the Confederate battle emblem — long viewed as a racist and divisive symbol in a state that has a nearly 40% Black population.
The Mississippi House of Representatives voted 91-23 to pass the the bill on Sunday, and the Senate approved it 37-14 on Sunday.
There was a standing ovation in the Senate after the bill was passed.
The reactions to the change in the flag were mostly positive.
Congressman Bennie G. Thompson, the longest-serving Black elected official in Mississippi, tweeted, “I am looking forward to finally being able to fly a Mississippi state flag that represents all of us in front of my office.”