TALLAHASSEE — Without a formal vote, the Florida Senate this week agreed to strip the Confederate battle flag from its official seal, removing one of the few remaining vestiges of the infamous icon in state government.
Senators, back in Tallahassee for a redistricting special session, agreed without objection to adopt a rule removing the controversial emblem from the chamber’s insignia. Approving the change without objection avoided a formal vote on the emotional issue.
Under the approved rule, the seal would still include other non-U.S. flags that flew over Florida, including the 1513 Spanish flag, the 1564 French flag and the 1763 flag of Great Britain. The United States flag would also remain, and the Florida state flag would replace the Confederate banner on the marker.
Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, and Senate Minority Leader Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, requested in June that the Senate Rules Committee consider whether to change the seal amid a national backlash against Confederate symbols after a white supremacist views opened fire at an African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina, killing nine people.
Since then, Southern states, including Florida, have wrestled with how to reconcile past commemorations of “the lost cause” with shifting feelings about race and the meaning of the Civil War.
Many Southerners view displays of the Confederate banner as recognition of their ancestors’ military service and sacrifice, but others interpret government use of the flag as an endorsement of the brutal slave-driven economy that was a central issue in the war, which raged from 1860 to 1865.
“Anyone who knows the history of blacks in the South, including Florida, understands what that flag represents,” said Senator Joyner. “And to see it as part of the official emblem representing the Florida Senate and the power this institution holds as a lawmaking body was deeply offensive to me. It needed to be removed.”