Sen. John Horhn, D-Jackson (center), wants to bring back legislation to change the Mississippi state flag, which has long been the subject of controversy because it bears a Confederate symbol. Credit: Mississippi Today

A group of Democratic lawmakers want an up or down vote on whether to change the Mississippi flag.

Sen. John Horhn, D-Jackson, along with a number of other House and Senate members, sponsored bills this session to change the flag, which bears a Confederate battle emblem. Every one of those bills died in committee. Because the bills failed, the rules of the House and Senate would need to be suspended before the bills could come to either floor for a vote.

If a vote does not take place, Horhn plans to press the business community for support, including some of the state’s largest employers, many of whom have released statements in the past few days objecting to the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act.”

That proposal says that government workers cannot be punished for exercising their religious beliefs, such as a circuit clerk refusing to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple, which is now legal in every state.

“We’re going to be sending letters to all the major corporations in the state asking them to take a stand on this issue the same way they just took a stand on the banning of services to gay couples. It’s ironic that they are willing to come out very quickly on that issue but that they’ve been extremely silent on the issue of the changing the flag,” Horhn told Mississippi Today after a press conference at the Capitol.

The Mississippi  flag has long been the center of controversy, but came under renewed scrutiny in 2015 after a mass killing of black church members in Charleston, S.C. After the murders of nine churchgoers, authorities arrested 21-year-old Dylan Roof for the crime. Later, photos of Roof posing with a Confederate flag emerged, prompting South Carolina to remove a Rebel flag near its statehouse.

Horhn sees an opportunity to press not only businesses, but also the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the Southeastern Conference. Mississippi is the only state prohibited from hosting NCAA post-season events because of the presence of the Confederate battle emblem on the Capitol grounds.

“The business community is going to have to start speaking with a louder voice about it and a voice that’s unified around changing the flag,” Horhn said. “It’s hurting our state to keep having this image flying.”

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Ryan L. Nave, a native of University City, Mo., served as Mississippi Today's editor-in-chief from May 2018 until April 2020. Ryan began his career with Mississippi Today February 2016 as an original member of the editorial team. He became news editor August 2016. Ryan has a bachelor’s in political science from the University of Missouri-Columbia and has worked for Illinois Times and served as news editor for the Jackson Free Press.