- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 4, 2004

RICHMOND — The Senate yesterday narrowly defeated a resolution that would have designated April as Confederate History and Heritage Month, after an emotional and heated debate from black lawmakers who called the resolution “offensive” and “repugnant.”

The Senate rejected the resolution authored by Sen. Charles R. Hawkins, Campbell County Republican, in a voice vote during which no vote was officially recorded.

Lt. Gov. Timothy Kaine, Democrat, who also serves as president of the Senate, called the resolution as defeated by the anonymous voice vote that, when heard, seemed to be equal on both sides. When this happens, the senators generally ask their votes be officially recorded with a “yes” or “no.”

The law requires that eight senators must raise their hand to force the official vote. However, fewer than eight senators raised their hands yesterday, and no official vote was recorded.

The resolution easily passed out of committee on Friday, but failed on a voice vote in the full Senate. The Senate has 24 Republicans and 16 Democrats.

Besides Mr. Hawkins, no other Republicans spoke in support of his bill.

Sen. Henry L. Marsh, Dinwiddie County Democrat, who is black, said passing a resolution celebrating the Confederacy would be akin to proclaiming the month of January “Third Reich History and Heritage Month.”

“Confederate history is nothing more than exultation of one of the most shameful episodes in this country’s history,” Mr. Marsh said.

Sen. L. Louise Lucas, Greensville County Democrat, agreed. “Confederate symbols should not be honored. They are cruel reminders of slavery.”

But Mr. Hawkins said the resolution was meant to educate and not to offend, and that the debate should not be focused on slavery.

“I understand fully what you’re saying,” Mr. Hawkins said, after the black senators delivered impassioned speeches. “What we need to do is hear more of this and find out the truth of our history. Without understanding our past we cannot plan for our future. Our history is not as simple as we’d like to make it.”

Brag Bowling, commander of the Virginia Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, called the debate “inflammatory rhetoric,” and criticized Republican senators for not giving speeches in favor of the resolution.

“The Republicans didn’t show the courage of their convictions when push came to shove,” he said. “Senator Hawkins gave an excellent presentation and when he turned around to see who was with him, all these guys who planned to support him chickened out.”

Mr. Bowling’s group does not plan to ask Gov. Mark Warner to reconsider his earlier refusal to officially recognize Civil War commemorations. Mr. Warner, a Democrat, has stayed neutral in the debate and has drawn the ire of groups on both sides of the Union-Confederate split.

If the resolution had passed, it would not have needed Mr. Warner’s signature.

Warner spokeswoman Ellen Qualls said yesterday the governor will not issue such a proclamation because he made a campaign promise not to.

Sen. Yvonne B. Miller, Norfolk Democrat, had proposed an amendment that changed the resolution’s language and added a provision that the state would build a statue on Capitol Square in honor of the blacks who lost their lives to slavery. Miss Miller later withdrew that amendment.

The Senate on Tuesday unanimously approved a bill that would protect Virginia’s historic monuments, streets and bridges from being renamed, relocated or removed. That bill now heads to the House Rules Committee.

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