While speaking at an event today in Richmond, Governor Terry McAuliffe made the following statement in response to the tragic shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC and the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision declaring that states can restrict license plate designs:
“Before I address some very positive developments regarding my administration’s continuing efforts to restore the voting rights of Virginians who were former offenders, I wanted to say a couple of words about last week’s horrific tragedy at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.
“First and foremost, I want to express, on behalf of all Virginians, our heartfelt sympathies to all members of the Emanuel Church Community, as well as the larger community in the City of Charleston.
“In the days since last week’s tragic shooting, the people of Charleston have displayed unparalleled unity and courage, and they have made all Americans proud.
“I also want to commend my colleague, Governor Nikki Haley, for her leadership yesterday in calling for the removal of the Confederate Battle Flag from the state Capitol grounds in Columbia.
“As Governor Haley said yesterday, her state can ill afford to let this symbol continue to divide the people of South Carolina.
“I believe the same is true here in Virginia.
“Although the battle flag is not flown here on Capitol Square, it has been the subject of considerable controversy, and it divides many of our people.
“Even its display on state issued license tags is, in my view, unnecessarily divisive and hurtful to too many of our people.
“As you all know, I have spent the past 17 months working to build a new Virginia economy that is more open and welcoming to everyone. Removing this symbol from our state-issued license plates will be another step toward realizing that goal.
“While it is true that legislation passed by the General Assembly in 1999 requires specialty license plates for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the legislation specifically attempted to prevent the Confederate emblem from being part of the design. Federal court decisions, however, required DMV to allow the emblem in the design.
“Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states could indeed prevent the confederate emblem from being placed on their license plates, directly contradicting the prior court rulings in Virginia. Accordingly, I have directed the following actions to remove the Confederate emblem from state-issued license plates.
“First, this morning I asked the Attorney General’s office to take steps to reverse the prior Court ruling that requires the Confederate flag be placed on state license plates.
“Second, I have directed Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne to develop a plan for replacing the currently-issued plates as quickly as possible.
“These steps will, I hope, make clear that this Commonwealth does not support the display of the Confederate battle flag or the message it sends to the rest of the world.”