Governor Northam signs legislation on historic justice, equity

((Source: NBC12))
Published: Apr. 11, 2020 at 5:40 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Saturday, Governor Ralph Northam signed new laws that repeal racist and discriminatory language from Virginia’s Acts of Assembly, give localities the ability to remove or alter Confederate monuments in their communities, and begin the process of replacing Virginia’s statue of Confederal General Robert E. Lee in the United States Capitol.

“Racial discrimination is rooted in many of the choices we have made about who and what to honor, and in many of the laws that have historically governed this Commonwealth,” said Governor Northam. These new laws make Virginia more equitable, just, and inclusive, and I am proud to sign them.”

Senate Bill 183 and House Bill 1537, sponsored by Senator Mamie Locke and Delegate Delores McQuinn, respectively, overturn the Commonwealth’s prohibition on the removal of Confederate war memorials. Starting July 1, localities will have the ability to remove, relocate, or contextualize the monuments in their communities.

Virginia is home to more than 220 public memorials to the Confederacy.

Senate Bill 612 and House Bill 1406, sponsored by Senator Louise Lucas and Delegate Jeion Ward, respectively, create a commission to recommend a replacement for the Robert E. Lee statue in the United States Capitol.

To date, eight statues in the National Statuary Hall have been replaced, and seven additional states are working through a similar process to replace statues.

“These monuments tell a particular version of history that doesn’t include everyone,” Governor Northam said. “In Virginia, that version of history has been given prominence and authority for far too long.”

Governor Northam also signed new laws to strike discriminatory language from Virginia’s Acts of Assembly. In June 2019, Governor Northam established the Commission to Examine Racial Inequity in Virginia Law, which subsequently identified 98 instances of overtly discriminatory language still on the Commonwealth’s books.

This includes laws that banned interracial marriage, blocked school integration and prohibited black and white Virginians from living in the same neighborhoods.

Governor Northam also signed House Bill 1519, sponsored by Delegate Delores McQuinn, establishing a commission to study slavery in Virginia and subsequent racial and economic discrimination.

The Commission will be comprised of 11 members, including three legislative members and eight non-legislative citizen members, and will make recommendations to Governor Northam and the General Assembly on appropriate remedies.

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