A proposal is back in the Florida Senate that would end legal holidays marking the birthdays of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and Confederate President Jefferson Davis, along with Confederate Memorial Day.
Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, on Monday filed a bill (SB 1116) to remove the Lee, Davis and Confederate Memorial days from a list of legal holidays on the books in Florida. The bill is filed for consideration during the 2021 legislative session, which will begin March 2. Lee’s birthday, Jan. 19, and Confederate Memorial Day, April 26, have been legal holidays in Florida since 1895.
Davis’ birthday, June 3, was added in 1905. Florida is one of five states that have kept Confederate Memorial Day a legal holiday. Confederate Memorial Day and the Lee and Davis days are not paid holidays for public employees in Florida. A similar proposal Book sponsored in 2018 was approved by one Senate committee but did not pass the Legislature. It drew objections from people who argued the proposal would erase Southern history.
The bill would amend existing law (Section 256.051 of Florida Statute), which currently prohibits the use of emblems for commercial purposes not only of the flag of Florida, but of the “Confederate States, or any flag or emblem used by the Confederate States or the military or naval forces of the Confederate States at any time within the years 1860 to 1865.” The law also prohibits the defilement of the flags, though that provision has been overridden by the 1989 U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld the First Amendment right of protesters to burn the flag.
The Senate proposal would eliminate from the law references to the Confederate flag or related emblems, ironically making it legal to use the Confederate flag for commercial purposes–or to defile it, at least under Florida law.
Rep. Mike Grieco, D-Miami Beach, filed a similar bill last month (HB 6007). Other legal holidays that are not paid holidays include Susan B. Anthony’s birthday, Good Friday, Flag Day and Pascua Florida Day, which marks the 1513 arrival in Florida of Juan Ponce de Leon.
–FlaglerLive and News Service of Florida