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Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced Tuesday he has directed state officials to no longer issue license plates bearing the Confederate battle flag, saying the flag is “unnecessarily divisive and hurtful to too many of our people.”
The governor’s announcement comes one day after South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley called for the flag to be removed from the grounds of that state’s capitol building after a 21-year-old white man killed nine black people last week in a Charleston church.
“As Governor Haley said yesterday, her state can ill afford to let this symbol continue to divide the people of South Carolina,” McAuliffe said. “I believe the same is true here in Virginia.”
The Confederate flag is not flown on the Capitol grounds in Richmond, however until Tuesday, it was featured on a Sons of Confederate Veterans vanity plate. The Department of Motor Vehicles website featuring all of the state’s vanity plates no longer shows that plate.
McAuliffe said the decision to stop issuing the plate was also a good move for the state’s economy.
“I have spent the past 17 months working to build a new Virginia economy that is more open and welcoming to everyone,” he said. “Removing this symbol from our state-issued license plates will be another step toward realizing that goal.”
The General Assembly passed legislation in 1999 requiring a vanity plate for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and that legislation tried to prevent the flag from inclusion on the plate’s design. The Sons of Confederate Veterans is a group focused on “preserving the history and legacy” of soldiers who fought for the Confederate States of America, according to its website.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last week the state of Texas is allowed to reject license plates featuring the Confederate flag, a decision that opened the door to Virginia officials rejecting license plate designs.
McAuliffe has also directed Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne to formulate a plan for replacing plates featuring the flag that are currently in service.
“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,” he said.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring issued a news release Tuesday praising McAuliffe for the decision.
“It’s past time to move beyond this divisive symbol, which for so many represents oppression and injustice,” he said. “I applaud Governor McAuliffe for his leadership and will work with him and his team to take the steps necessary to remove the Confederate battle flag from Virginia’s license plates.”