By Lawyers Herald Staff Writer
Mississippi state flag which includes the Confederate flag.
Voters will decide whether to replace the state’s old flag, which sports the Confederate battle cross, with a new flag that would have 20 white stars on a blue square. A Mississippi lawyer sued Governor Phil Bryant for flying the state flag, an emblem tantamount to hateful government speech against himself and African American residents of Mississippi’s rights.Carlos Moore alleged that the current flag contains a Confederate emblem with a racial discriminatory purpose to subjugate African-Americans to second class status and promote the notion of white supremacy. Thus, his constitutional rights have been violated along with all African American citizens of the state.
Moore stated in his complaint, which was lodged before the jurisdiction of Southern Mississippi U.S. District Court, that time is of the essence for the removal of the current state flag from all public display on public lands and adoption of a non-discriminatory state flag. He also emphasized that there was a recent mass killing by a young white supremacist who was a Confederate battle flag sympathizer and militant. Mississippi is the only state that incorporates the Confederate emblem flag into its state flag.
Moore said that he invoked some of the same language from the Obergefell v. Hodges case, which the U.S. Supreme Court solidified to legalize same-sex marriage nationally.
“Such case is the law of the land, and if it applies to same-sex couples, and they’ve got the right to be respected; surely African Americans have the right to be respected too,” Moore said in an interview.
However, Republican Bryant, who recently issued a proclamation naming April as Confederate Heritage Month, has said voters should decide whether to keep the flag used since 1894.
He said that he will rely on a landmark case filed in the mid-1990s in Georgia. A black resident of Atlanta sued over the design of Georgia’s flag, which then displayed the same Confederate battle emblem that’s still on the Mississippi banner.
In such lawsuit, it argued that the flag was racist because the Confederate emblem was added in 1956 to defy school desegregation rulings. U.S. District Judge Orinda D. Evans ruled in January 1996 that she would not make Georgia stop flying its flag because: “There simply is no evidence in the record indicating that the flag itself results in discrimination against African-Americans.”
In a report by The Oregonian, House Speaker Tina Kotek stated, “After attempting again this week to reach out to leadership in both the Mississippi House and Senate, I now believe it is time for us to act. We should remove the Mississippi flag.”
Constitutional law expert Matt Steffey said that there are some issues with Moore’s legal claims.
“The 14th Amendment is not usually read to be concerned with symbolic matters, and the flag is by definition a symbol,” Steffey said. “And while the lawsuit attempts to tie this to violence, at least in a courtroom, there’s no way to establish that.”