SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California state government departments will be prohibited from selling or displaying items with an image of the Confederate flag under a bill that passed the Assembly on Monday.
AB2444 by Assemblyman Isadore Hall, D-Compton, is headed to the Senate after passing on a 72-1 vote. Hall introduced the bill after his mother saw replica Confederate money being sold at the state Capitol gift shop, which no longer stocks the item.
He called the image a symbol of racism meant to intimidate.
"Its symbolism in history is directly linked to the enslavement, torture and murder of millions of Americans," Hall said of the Confederate flag. "The state of California should not be in the business of promoting hate toward others."
The only lawmaker to vote against the bill was Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, the leading Republican candidate for governor.
"We shouldn't be here picking the kind of speech we like," he said. "I am not standing here defending the symbol. I am standing here defending the principle that the First Amendment principles should apply in all state buildings, of all places."
The bill originally banned all sales of Confederate flag memorabilia on state property. In explaining that provision, Hall noted a sign sold at the state fairgrounds depicting a Confederate flag with the phrase "It's still my American flag."
He amended the bill to exclude nongovernment employees and businesses from the ban to avoid violating constitutional free speech protections.
Courts have upheld the rights of individuals to display the Confederate flag while also upholding the rights of government agencies to limit what they endorse.
"We aren't stifling free speech here," said Assemblyman Donald Wagner, R-Irvine, calling on Republicans who oppose flag burning to understand the symbolic implications of the Confederate flag. "Here is a symbol that's so vile, that carries such connotations, that we in the state do not want to be associated with it."
The legislation would not prohibit Confederate flag images from appearing in educational or historical contexts, such as in textbooks or museums.
Some states have gone the other direction: Earlier this year, Georgia approved a specialty license plate featuring the Confederate flag.