COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) â€” The South Carolina Legislature today approved removing the Confederate flag from the Capitol dome, ending months of bitter debate by lawmakers in the only state that flies the banner above its Statehouse.
``I hope this represents the last battle of the Civil War,'' said Democratic state Senator Dick Elliott.
But the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has said it will continue leading its boycott of the state under the plan, which would move the flag to a monument on Statehouse grounds.
The bill now goes to Gov. Jim Hodges, who has said he would sign any agreement reached by the House and Senate. If he approves, the flag would come down July 1.
The House approved the final version 66-43, and the Senate followed minutes later, 35-8.
The agreement came after months of debate, marches and demonstrations that attracted thousands of flag supporters and opponents to the Statehouse.
The deal struck by a legislative committee moves the banner to a 30-foot flagpole at the monument to Confederate war dead.
The NAACP and many black lawmakers say the site in front of the Statehouse still would be too prominent. Earlier this week, Kweisi Mfume, president of the civil rights group, promised to expand its 5-month-old tourism boycott if the flag is moved to the monument.
``I wonder if we've really come that far as a state. But the reality is, here we are,'' said Democratic state Representative Joe Neal, chairman of the House Black Caucus.
Mfume also said he would ask organized labor to support the boycott and urge executives of the motion picture and entertainment industries not to film or conduct any activities in South Carolina.
The flag has flown above the Statehouse since 1962 when it was raised to commemorate the Civil War centennial. Critics say it also was raised in defiance of the civil rights movement.
Supporters say the flag is an important part of the state's heritage; opponents say it represents slavery and racism.
The flag that would be flown at the monument is a square version of the rectangular flag that now flies above the dome. Both have the familiar blue cross with white stars on a red background.
Earlier today, the House rejected a Senate plan for a 25-foot flagpole at the monument and insisted on a 30-foot pole.
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