UPDATED: June 23, 2015 4:51 p.m.
RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has moved to have the Confederate flag banished from state license plates.
At an event in Richmond Tuesday, he called the flag “unnecessarily divisive and hurtful” and said he has asked the Attorney General’s office to take steps to reverse the prior court ruling that allows it to be placed on state plates.
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states can prevent the emblem from being placed on license plates, directly contradicting the old rulings.
McAuliffe says the move is in response to the shooting of nine black church members in Charleston, South Carolina.
Frank Earnest, a spokesperson for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, says removing the flag shows ignorance of U.S. history and the state’s role in the Civil War.
“We’ve had it in the neighborhood of ten years now, a plate that is not just a souvenir Confederate flag,” he says. “It is our emblem of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans, which incorporates the flag. It allows us to honor our ancestors who defended the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
Earnest adds that the flag is not a symbol of racism.
“To say all of us who use the Confederate flag, who honor the Confederate flag are the same as some of those who misuse it, is lumping us all into one group the same way they say they wouldn’t want to be,” he says.
McAuliffe has directed Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne to develop a plan for replacing the currently-issued plates as quickly as possible.
“These steps will, I hope, make clear that this Commonwealth does not support the display of the Confederate battle flag or the message it sends to the rest of the world,” McAuliffe says.
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