Florida lawmakers moved closer to removing holidays celebrating Confederate figures in a committee meeting on Tuesday.
State senators considered a new proposal which could remove the birthdays of former Confederate president Jefferson Davis and Confederate General Robert E. Lee from a list of legal holidays celebrated in Florida.
The bill, SB 224, sponsored by Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, would also remove the Confederate Memorial Day from the list of holidays contained in state law.
Lee’s birthday and the Confederate Memorial Day have been on state calendars since 1895 while Davis’ birthday has been celebrated in Florida since 1905.
The Senate Community Affairs Committee voted 4-2 in favor of the measure.
Book said her bill wasn’t attempting to diminish the significance of Lee and Davis’ impact on Florida, but emphasized the measure intended to “underscore” and “undercut” tributes celebrating the Confederacy, which upheld slavery and “perpetuated inequality” in the 1800s.
“I’ve been a Floridian my entire life and I love, appreciate and honor our state’s unique heritage and culture,” Book told the committee. “Our history is rich and undeniable and no one is seeking to erase that.”
Book said Lee himself opposed memorializing the Civil War and its leaders, noting it was “wiser” not to keep open the “sores of war.”
The bill sparked lengthy debate over whether or not Florida was attempting to scrub its Civil War roots from the history books. Florida joined the Confederate States at the beginning of the Civil War and was often used as an important food supplier for Southern troops.
Opponents of the measure criticized the bill, questioning why Florida would want to “erase” Southern history.
“We can’t even have a simple holiday on the books recognizing the great men and women who stood in defense of our state? How cowardly have we become as a people?” asked Marshall Clayton Rawson, who said it was “insulting” the bill was even being heard.
“I am offended that our history is being dismissed, erased and destroyed,” said Cindy Newsome of Yulee. “We are micromanaging our history so we can appease one group only to anger another group...we’ve been walking on eggshells trying not to offend anyone by our history.”
Sens. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, and Tom Lee, R-Brandon, both voted “no” on the measure. Book’s bill now heads to the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee for approval.
Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Coral Springs, is sponsoring identical legislation in the House, but it has yet to receive a hearing.