June 28 (UPI) -- Lawmakers in Mississippi voted to remove the Confederate insignia from the state's flag on Sunday, forwarding the bill to the desk of Gov. Tate Reeves who said he will sign it.
The legislation calling for the redesign of the Mississippi state flag and for the new flag to not include the Confederate battle emblem passed the state House 91-23 and the state Senate 37-14 on Sunday.
The flag with blue, white and red stripes and the Confederate emblem in its corner was adopted in 1894 and if Reeves, the state's Republican governor, signs the legislation into law, the last remaining state flag to fly the Confederate symbol will be retired.
"I thank my colleagues, constituents and the activists who fought so hard to bring about this historic moment," said Rep. Jeramey Anderson via Twitter on Sunday following the votes. "I thank those who came before us, who with courage and resolve nurtured the Civil Rights Movement that helped us to this day. What a beautiful moment of unity."
The bill specifically calls for the establishment of a commission to redesign the state flag, and prescribes for it "not include the design of the Confederate battle flag" but to include the words "in God we trust." The commission is to submit its recommendation on a new design by Sept. 14 and it will then be placed on the ballot in a special election to be held on Nov. 3.
The Confederate emblem on the state's flag has long been a source of controversy, but debate over it resumed in the legislature following the police-involved death of George Floyd, which ignited weeks of nationwide protests against police brutality and racial inequality.
Floyd, a black man, was killed late last month while being pinned to the ground for more than eight minutes by the knee of a white police officer.
Amid the protests, demonstrators have demanded for statues and symbols honoring those of the Confederacy to be removed as critics say they celebrate slavery.
In the past few weeks, several such statues have been torn down by protesters or removed by politicians.
Earlier this month, the NCAA board of governors banned championship events from being held in states that fly the Confederate flag and Walmart said it would no longer display the flag at its Mississippi locations.
Reeves said in a statement that he would sign the bill after it is sent to him, stating that what needs to occur now is for the state to heal.
"It will be harder than recovering from tornadoes, harder than historic floods, harder than agency corruption or prison riots or the coming hurricane season -- even harder than battling the coronavirus," he said. "For economic prosperity and for a better future for my kids and yours, we must find a way to come together. To heal our wounds, to forgive, to resolve that the page has been turned, to trust each other."