Texas is One Vote From Approving Confederate Flag License Plates

The stalemate reignites debate over the Civil War's legacy

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While New York state was whipped into a frenzy being just one vote shy of passing the Marriage Equality Act, the state of Texas finds itself in a similar limbo over whether or not to approve a confederate flag license plate, the Houston Chronicle reports. The Department of Motor Vehicles is just one vote short of granting approval of the specialty plate to the local division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Just how controversial is the confederate flag? At times it's hard to tell, and this latest stalemate has renewed the debate. On one hand, the DMV posted a mock plate with the flag in March, and comments were "overwhelmingly positive," according to the Chronicle: 186 in favor, 3 against.  The Sons of Confederate Veterans have won approval of the plate in nine other states, including Georgia, Maryland, and Tennessee. They are seeking approval in more states including Florida, where the group sued the state after the legislature rejected its request. In March, a federal judge ruled that the state's license plate law was unconstitutional because it engages in "viewpoint discrimination." And the founder of an organization to recover reparations for slavery even told the Daily Mail that he would not oppose the license plates. "I don't see how a flag hurts someone," he said.

Jerry Patterson, commissioner of the Texas General Land Office, spoke in support for passage of the license plate during a board vote in April, according to NBC. He said that the Confederate Veterans, of which he is a descendant, served honorably, just as he served honorably in Vietnam.

"Not all things in Vietnam were done in a manner that I'm proud of. I served in Vietnam but I'm not proud of what happened. This is history and any time you commemorate history and those who served honorably, be they... the Sons of Confederate Veterans, I think they should be honored.”

But before it seems like the confederate flag may be making a comeback, other residents still consider the flag a deeply offensive and divisive symbol of the country's history of slavery: "It brings back the anger from which it stands for -- the Civil War -- and I don't think it should be allowed," one Texan told CBS. And Hilary Shelton from the NAACP told CBS news that the Civil War may not be cause for celebration for Americans:

"When many look at that history, we think about it in terms of secession, that is we were seceding from the Union in the southern parts of the country. Many would view that, quite frankly, as treason, because they meant to actually destroy the existing governmental structure. But when we dig deeper, the issue becomes even more offensive to many African Americans and those that sought freedom for those of darker skin in our country."

At this point, the vote has been put off momentarily, because the ninth member of the DMV board passed away. It's up to Governor Rick Perry to appoint his replacement. The Wall Street Journal posted from ThinkProgress that "Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) may soon get the chance to advertise his love of secession on his car."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.