COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) â€” The South Carolina House opened debate Tuesday on a measure to remove the Confederate flag from the Statehouse dome, after months of protests, a five-day march and the start of a tourist boycott of the state.
The bill would move the flag to a Confederate soldier monument on the Statehouse grounds.
The measure has already won Senate approval, but some blacks oppose the compromise, and adoption by the Republican-controlled House was far from certain, even though the GOP leadership has endorsed the plan. A final vote was not expected Tuesday.
As debate got under way, the House quickly turned down changes in the Senate version, including specifying the size of the flag and protecting the new location with a fence. Lawmakers also tabled a proposal for a referendum on the flag.
While it was House Republicans who rebuffed previous attempts to remove the flag, this time the opposition comes from black Democrats who say the flag would be too visible at the monument, which is near one of Columbia's busiest intersections.
``I'd rather it stay on the dome than fly on the ground in people's faces and create the total chaos that I know it's going to create,'' said Rep. John Scott.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which wants tourists to boycott South Carolina until the flag is removed, also opposes the Senate plan.
Some black senators said it was the best compromise they could get.
The NAACP says the flag stands for slavery. Its supporters say it is an important symbol of the state's heritage and honors those who fought in the Civil War.
On the Net:
Flag opponents: http://www.getinstep.com
South Carolina Heritage Coalition: http://www.kudzumedia.com/schc.htm
Sons of Confederate Veterans: http://wwww.scv.org