A federal judge declined to rule Tuesday after three hours of oral arguments from attorneys representing the state of Mississippi and Carlos Moore regarding a federal lawsuit asking that the state flag be taken down.
U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves said he would assess the arguments and written briefs submitted by each side in late March but gave no indication about how he would decide to proceed.
“The court is going to take this matter under advisement and a ruling will be forthcoming,” Reeves said just before adjourning the court.
Moore, an attorney from Grenada, filed the lawsuit against Gov. Phil Bryant in February, claiming that the Mississippi state flag, which contains a Confederate battle emblem, violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteen Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Moore also says the flag has caused him physical harm, including increased anxiety and stress.
“I’m asking this court to find that it is a constitutional right for African Americans in this state to be treated with dignity and respect,” Moore said during the argument on Tuesday. “I’m not asking you to change the state flag. I’m asking you to take it down, as it is harmful to me and detrimental to my rights under the law.”
The hearing centered around the legal standing of the lawsuit, and attorneys from both sides argued about whether the court has authority to rule on such an issue.
“Should the court allow the legislative branch to work its way through this issue?” Reeves asked each side during the hearing.
Moore argued that he filed the lawsuit due in part to the state legislature’s failure to debate any of the 12 bills that were proposed early this legislative session.
The state’s counsel, led by Special Assistant Attorney General Douglas Miracle, disagreed.
“The political debate (of the Mississippi state flag) is real. It’s live and ongoing,” Miracle said. “The argument being made (by Moore) is that the court should act because the political process is turning slowly. That alone doesn’t provide grounds to act.”