The House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday approved an amendment to ban the display of the Confederate battle flag on all Defense Department property.
The amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act was introduced by Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.), an Iraq War vet, and includes exceptions for museum exhibits, state-approved license plates and the gravesites of Confederate soldiers, the Military Times reported.
“Recent, tragic events have underscored how much farther we have to go to heal the racial divisions that have plagued this country since our founding,” Brown said in a statement after the vote, referring to the death of George Floyd at the hands of police and other cases of police misconduct, The Hill reported.
“Prohibiting the display of the Confederate flag — a symbol that for so many represents white supremacy, oppression and terror — in our military is an important step in that reckoning.”
The ban would include military work spaces, break rooms, living quarters, bumper stickers and personal apparel, and service members could face punishment for disobeying the order.
The move comes amid a national debate over symbols of the Confederacy, including the flag and statues of Confederate officers, that has even reached the White House.
Critics charge that allowing the flag to be displayed or the statues to remain in public space glorifies traitors who tried to destroy the Union.
Supporters, including President Trump, say they are part of the American heritage.
The Navy and Marine Corps last month banned all public displays of the Confederate flag, saying the move was made to “ensure unit cohesion, preserve good order and discipline, and uphold the Navy’s core values of honor, courage and commitment,” according to the Military Times.
Army Gen. Robert Abrams said in a statement that even though “some might view it as a symbol of regional pride, many others in our force see it as a painful reminder of hate, bigotry, treason and a devaluation of humanity … we cannot have that division among us.”
Army officials said they were reviewing the issue, but had not yet moved to ban the symbol as they awaited guidance from Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
Air Force officials had not made any changes on the issue.
If the new amendment becomes law, it would force those services and all Defense Department personnel to ban the so-called “Stars and Bars.”
But the amendment has to make its way through the full House and Senate before it would become law.
And Trump vowed to veto it if it includes a provision from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) mandating that military forts and installations named for Confederate officers such as Robert E. Lee be renamed.
“I will Veto the Defense Authorization Bill if the Elizabeth ‘Pocahontas’ Warren (of all people!) Amendment, which will lead to the renaming (plus other bad things!) of Fort Bragg, Fort Robert E. Lee, and many other Military Bases from which we won Two World Wars, is in the Bill!” the commander-in-chief tweeted.
Senators included the fort name change plan in an early draft of the legislation, but were expected to debate the move in the days ahead.
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