(WAVY) — Virginia’s governor is moving to have the Confederate flag banished from state license plates.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced the decision Tuesday, citing the killings at an African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina, and a U.S. Supreme Court decision that said states can restrict license plate designs.
McAuliffe said he’s asked Attorney General Mark Herring to take steps to reverse a 2002 federal court decision that said Virginia could not block the Confederate Veterans from displaying its logo — which includes the Confederate flag — on state license plates.
Herring released this statement Tuesday:
It’s past time to move beyond this divisive symbol, which for so many represents oppression and injustice. I applaud Governor McAuliffe for his leadership and will work with him and his team to take the steps necessary to remove the Confederate battle flag from Virginia’s license plates
Virginia vanity plates include one that pays homage to the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The group is opposed to the plate ban, even in light of the tragedy in South Carolina.
Gov begins to remove Confederate flag from VA license plates – “We do not support the message it sends to the world.” http://t.co/IEZQMBNzVw
— Terry McAuliffe (@GovernorVA) June 23, 2015
On one side, you have Gov. McAuliffe responding to an unspeakable tragedy in South Carolina. He told us, “Oh, sure, they can have the Confederate flag, but they don’t need it on the Virginia state license plate.”
On the other side, in a home that has the flag on a state-issued license plate, you have Bob Shirley, a great great grandson of a Confederate veteran soldier.
“Why does [Governor McAuliffe] want the flag off the plate? That flag honors the history of Virginia,” Shirley said. “It is where you and I live … it’s our history … people died to protect Virginia. And it’s alright for people to drive around with a Jimmy Buffet Parrot Head on the plate, and that’s okay?”
The Governor response: “It’s a symbol that is so divisive to so many people, and is so hurtful.”
Some say it’s especially divisive after Dylann Roof wrapped himself in the Confederate flag before allegedly gunning down nine people in a historic church.
Shirley answers that: “It does not help our cause, but [Dylann Roof] does not represent us. He has been a hindrance to what we believe in.”
Shirley said the Confederate flag did not kill. A crazy man with a gun killed. Some have said this should be a gun control issue.
“It is not about gun control,” Gov. McAuliffe said. “I think, if anybody looks at the history that so many Americans and so many Virginians share, they will find [the Confederate flag] a very hurtful divisive symbol,” the Governor said.
Bob Shirley said the flag on the state license plate honors his and others’ heritage, relatives who died fighting for Virginia.
“You can’t do away with history, it happened. They are trying to promote this revisionist history, or as they said in the paper, this Stalinist revision of history where you remove everything that offends,” Shirley said. “You do that, and suddenly it’s not history.”
Here’s what happens now: the Governor told 10 On Your Side plates will not be taken away from those who have them, but the plates will not be renewed when they expire.
“That’s right … they have that for a certain amount of time,” Gov. McAuliffe said.
U.S. Senator Tim Kaine agrees with Gov. McAuliffe’s actions:
I support Governor McAuliffe’s call to remove the Confederate battle flag from state-issued Virginia license plates. The use of the flag by public bodies is integrally connected to celebration of the cause of the Confederacy, which is inimical to American values. With the Supreme Court’s decision last week in Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc., prior court rulings in Virginia that have protected the use of the emblem on license plates are now obsolete. This is the right call for the Commonwealth and I commend the Governor for his leadership on this issue.
Aubrey Layne Secretary of Transportation said:
Whether you like it or not many Virginians and many across America see the confederate flag as a symbol of hatred. It should not be on a state issued license plate.
Here is what we are going to do. We are reaching out to the Sons of Confederate Veterans and asking them to come up with a new symbol for the license plate. This process could take two or three months. When that is decided we will then issue new plates with the new emblem, and mail them at no cost to those who have the current plate with the confederate flag.
The plate expiration will match the current expirations that are now on the plates.
Congressman Bobby Scott released the following statement Tuesday:
I commend the Governor for his decision today to order the removal of the Confederate Battle Flag from specialty Virginia license plates. The flag’s contemporary use has always been controversial, particularly in light of the fact that many Southern states opted to display the flag in some form or another in direct protest of racial integration in the 1950s. Finally, with the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc. that license plate designs constitute government speech, the Governor’s action is on firm legal ground. Again, I commend the Governor for taking this action and leading on this issue.