The Mississippi House approved a resolution Saturday that allows lawmakers to vote on legislation to change the state flag.
The Republican-controlled lower chamber voted 84-35 to suspend rules so lawmakers can consider legislation that will either alter or completely replace the flag.
The measure is set for a vote by a state Senate committee and would then need approval from the full Senate.
The vote came after Republican Gov. Tate Reeves said that if the state legislature passes a bill on the state flag, he’ll sign it.
“The legislature has been deadlocked for days as it considers a new flag,” Reeves said in a statement earlier Saturday.
“The argument over the 1894 flag has become as divisive as the flag itself and it’s time to end it. If they send me a bill this weekend, I will sign it.”
Lawmakers have been mulling action on the flag in recent weeks, an extension of a discussion that’s been ongoing for decades.
Mississippi’s flag, adopted in 1894, includes the Confederate battle flag.
Renewed criticism has targeted people and emblems linked to the Confederacy following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in police custody in Minneapolis last month. Activists and officials across the country are pushing for changes to a wide range of areas, including flags and monuments.
Former Gov. Phil Bryant, a Republican, and Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) are among those supporting a flag showing the state seal, which states, “The Great Seal of the State of Mississippi” and “In God We Trust.”
A number of lawmakers expressed support this week for changing the flag.
“After serious thought and consideration, I have made the decision to vote in favor of retiring the state flag. Our State faces serious economic impact if we continue flying our current flag, a flag that doesn’t unite all the people of Mississippi but divides us,” state Rep. Jody Steverson, a Republican, said on social media late Friday.
“Several options have been discussed by the leaders of our State, but the implications of not removing the current flag could not wait until a referendum could be placed on the ballot.”
“I was elected to be a leader, not a follower. I can no longer sit back and ignore the issue that is dividing this State. It’s past time to retire the current State flag. We need a flag that represents ALL Mississippians,” added state Rep. Joel Carter Jr. (R).
Opposition remains. Some believe Mississippi residents should make the decision.
“What’s the rush? The flag’s been there more than 100 years. You think five more months is going to end the world?” state Sen. Chris McDaniel of the GOP said Friday, WAPT reported.
McDaniel said there’s enough support for his position to block a vote in the chamber.
Mississippi voters were presented with a referendum in 2001 on changing the flag and 64 percent voted against changing it.
House Democrats, though, said this week they don’t support having a referendum.
“Mississippi House Democrats for years have consistently urged the Mississippi Legislature to do its job and make tough decisions in the best interest of the people [in] this State,” House Minority Leader Robert Johnson, a Democrat, said in a statement.
“The decision to remove the Confederate battle emblem from our State Flag is one of those decisions; it is our decision to make, and the time to make it is now,” he added.