After hours of heated debate, the South Carolina House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to remove the Confederate battle flag from the statehouse grounds in the early hours of Thursday morning.
The bill should reach the desk of Republican Gov. Nikki Haley before the end of the day Thursday and she has promised to sign it quickly. The flag must be taken down within 24 hours of the governor signing the bill.
It took the House 14 hours to go through the bill as Republicans, led by Rep. Michael Pitts, proposed 55 amendments with a range of calls, from the removal of all statues and monuments from the grounds, to substitute civil war era flags on the flagpole where the battle flag now stands, MSNBC reports.
During the debate, Republican Rep. Jenny Horne reminded her colleagues she was a descendant of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and reproached her fellow members for introducing dozens of amendments.
"For the widow of Sen. Pinckney and his two young daughters, that would be adding insult to injury and I will not be a part of it," she screamed into a microphone, referring to Sen. Clementa Pinckney, who was gunned down, along with eight other African Americans at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston on June 17. A self-described white supremacist, Dylann Roof, has been charged with the crime.
After the vote, the supporters of the bill were hugging and crying in the House chamber.
"I am 44 years old. I never thought I'd see this moment," House minority leader Todd Rutherford told the Associated Press. "I stand with people who never thought they would see this as well."
Many who opposed the bill felt that the removal of the flag represented a negation of their Southern heritage. They were insisting that the flag had been "hijacked" by racists.
“People make fun of the heritage issue, but it’s very personal to me,” Representative Pitts said.
The last amendment was voted down well after midnight. The bill passed its second reading at just after 1:00 a.m. by vote of 93 to 7 and the third reading by a vote of 94 to 20.
The flag was first flown over the dome of South Carolina's capitol in 1961 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the war and stayed there as a protests to the Civil Rights movement. It was moved to its current location in 2000.
If the governor signs the bill, as expected, the flag will be taken down within 24 hours and sent to the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum in Columbia, S.C.
This report includes material from the Associated Press.