South Carolina: Lawmakers in South Carolina voted 37-3 on Monday to remove from the grounds of the state legislature the Confederate flag -- a symbol increasingly viewed with repugnance following last month`s shooting massacre at a black church.
After passing easily in the state Senate, the bill now is set to go before South Carolina`s House of Representatives, amid growing public demands that the red, white and blue banner no longer be permitted to fly outside the legislature in the capital city Columbia.
"It`s the right thing to do," said Democratic state senator Vincent Sheheen as he and his colleagues in the Republican-dominated legislature took up the hot-button issue.
The Confederate battle flag has become a flashpoint for controversy since the murder of nine black worshippers by a young white supremacist at an historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina.
Many see the Civil War banner -- which has been adopted by extremist groups -- as a symbol of hate and racism rather than regional heritage.
It has come down already outside the Alabama state legislature and several major retailers have said they will no longer sell it.
For 15 years, the flag has flown alongside a Confederate memorial on the manicured lawn of the Republican-dominated legislature in the southern state where the Civil War erupted in 1861.
But calls for it to go were rekindled by the June 17 mass murder of nine blacks -- including a state senator -- at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston.
Dylann Roof, 21, a suspected white supremacist charged with the killings, has been seen in online photographs flaunting the Confederate flag.
Governor Nikki Haley, a Republican with Tea Party support, spoke out in favor of taking down the flag in the wake of the Charleston shooting.
But by law, the final decision rests with both houses of the Republican-dominated South Carolina legislature, which could resolve the issue before going on its summer break this week.
Meanwhile, members of the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan -- infamous for their face-concealing white hoods and for waging a campaign of hate and terror dating back more than a century against African Americans and other minorities -- are planning a protest next week in support of the Confederate flag outside the South Carolina legislature.
News media said the Klan has obtained a permit for a rally of 100 to 200 people on the State House grounds in Columbia on July 18.