ATLANTA — – A key Georgia legislative panel on Wednesday adopted a compromise state flag that reduces the Confederate battle emblem to one of five small symbols at the bottom of a banner dominated by the state seal.
After being quickly passed by the House Rules Committee, the proposal headed for a vote in the Democrat-dominated House.
It had the support of Democratic leaders, including black lawmakers and of Gov. Roy Barnes, who planned to speak in its favor on the House floor, said House Majority Leader Larry Walker.
Civil rights leaders had threatened boycotts if the Confederate battle emblem wasn't removed from the state's flag. Many are the same activists who successfully fought last year to remove the Confederate flag from atop South Carolina's statehouse.
Passage would require a simple majority in both the House, which has 105 Democrats and 75 Republicans, and the Senate, where the split is 32 Democrats to 24 Republicans.
The new flag would have the state seal on a blue background. Beneath the words "Georgia's history" at the bottom would be five small replicas of flags that have flown over Georgia -- including the current banner that contains the Confederate battle emblem.
It was a fair compromise, said state Rep. Tyrone Brooks, the black lawmaker who has led the fight to remove the Confederate emblem from the flag.
"The civil rights community indicated to me it will follow my judgment, and I believe we will have overwhelming support," Brooks said. "I do not anticipate any protests or boycotts if we can solve the issue with this flag."
Charles Lunsford, president of the Heritage Preservation Association, which supports the current flag, called the proposal "a big mistake."
"We have a well-organized, well-financed effort throughout the nation to completely erase every vestige of old South history, and this is the politicians caving in and allowing one more domino to fall after hundreds have already fallen," he said.
But the man who sponsored the 1956 bill that created the current flag, former legislator Denmark Groover, repeated his call to change the flag.
"It has become the most divisive issue on the political spectrum and needs to be put to rest," Groover told the rules committee.
Groover said it is time to "end this cauldron of discord that adversely affects our lives and the future of our children and grandchildren."