Bills that would allow localities to move Confederate monuments take steps forward in House, Senate

Virginia Politics

RICHMOND, VA – AUGUST 23: A statue of Confederate General Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson, unveild in 1919, stands at the intersection of Monument Avenue and North Boulevard August 23, 2017 in Richmond, Virginia. Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney’s Monument Avenue Commission — composed of academics, historians and community leaders –will include an examination of the removal or relocation of some or all of the city’s Confederate statues, which depict Civil War Gens. Robert E. Lee, J.E.B. Stuart and Stonewall Jackson; President of the Confederacy Jefferson Davis; and Confederate naval commander Matthew Fontaine Maury. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — The Virginia Senate passed a bill 21-17 Wednesday that would allow localities to have more control over moving war memorials, including Confederate monuments.

The bill, HB 1537, will now go back to the House for review.

Current state law prevents the removal of war memorials. It was first enacted in 1904 and originally only applied to counties, before being changed in 1997 to include any “locality.”

Also on Wednesday, the House passed a similar, but slightly different, bill also regarding relocating war memorials: Sen. Mamie Locke’s (D-Hampton) SB 183. That bill passed with substitutions, meaning it needs to go back to the Senate for approval as well.

The issue of Confederate monuments has been heavily debated over the past few years in several cities in Hampton Roads, including Norfolk, which has already passed a resolution to move its statue from downtown to a nearby cemetery.

In contrast, in January, the Virginia Beach Historic Preservation Commission recommended against moving the city’s Confederate monument.

Instead, the commission suggested the city should add historical context in a new park, and build a second statue to honor African American heritage.

In 2018, a circuit court judge ruled the city of Portsmouth can’t claim ownership of its statue downtown.

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