South Carolina Moves Closer to Permanently Removing the Confederate Flag From Its Statehouse

In a 36-3 vote, state senators moved a bill to rid the grounds of the emblem.

The South Carolina state Senate voted once and for all to remove the Confederate flag from statehouse grounds on Tuesday, moving the bill to do so on to the state House.

Lawmakers voted 36-3 in a procedural third reading of the bill, one day after the same body voted 37-3 in a second reading to get rid of the flag. Its presence in Columbia after last month's Charleston shooting spurred a national conversation about race and Southern identity.

A day after Gov. Nikki Haley called for the banner to be taken down—which can be done only through a two-thirds majority in both chambers of the Legislature—lawmakers introduced a bill to remove it permanently.

Following Tuesday's vote, state Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Darlington, addressed the widow of the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, a state senator and pastor who was one of the nine people shot and killed in Charleston's historically black Emanuel AME Church. She stood in the Senate chambers as he spoke about her and her family.

"Words cannot describe the deep grief" the Pinckney family has faced in recent weeks, Malloy said, and Jennifer Pinckney "has been our strength."

"This state loves Senator Pinckney, and this state loves you and your girls, and they love the entire Pinckney family," Malloy said. "And we will keep our arms wrapped around you and this family forever—it's the least we can do for our brother Clementa."

State Sen. Kevin Bryant, R-Anderson, also offered a reflection on Clementa Pinckney after the vote, praising the forgiveness shown by the victims' families in the aftermath of the attack.

"Any other time, any other place in the world, violence would have been returned for violence," Bryant said, "but not in South Carolina, not in Charleston."

State Sen. Danny Verdin, R-Laurens, was one of three senators who voted against the bill on Monday. Ahead of the vote on Tuesday, he opened his floor statement with a story about his familial ancestors who fought in the Civil War, and said he hopes in the future to make sure historical references are preserved.

"It concerns me that if we don't continue to show that reverence and respect for those and their emblems and their monuments that have gone before us," Verdin said, "those that come after us might treat us the same way."

In the House, debate over the bill could begin as early as Wednesday, with several amendments possible to replace the flag or relocate it to a state museum. There's likely enough support in the House to pass the bill, according to a survey of legislators from The Post and Courier, the Associated Press, and the South Carolina Press Association.