ATLANTA — Georgia has stopped issuing a specialty license plate featuring two Confederate battle flags, and a top official in Gov. Nathan Deal's administration has ordered that changes be made to the design.
Department of Revenue spokesman Nick Genesi said Friday that Commissioner Lynne Riley has ordered a redesign of the Sons of Confederate Veterans plate. Gov. Nathan Deal said earlier this week that the plate should be redesigned but did not specify whether the flag should be removed from it.
The Georgia plate is listed in state law, but Genesi said Revenue commissioners have final approval of plate designs. State officials have said 3,500 of the plates are active, out of about 9 million active tags total in Georgia.
An official with the Georgia division of the group declined comment to the Associated Press on Friday due to ongoing funeral services for the nine black members of a South Carolina church killed in a shooting. A 21-year-old white man identified by authorities as the shooter has been linked to an online diatribe professing allegiance to white supremacy and displaying the Confederate battle flag, prompting officials across the country to call for removal of the flag and other Confederate symbols from government buildings.
Several Democratic members of the Georgia Legislature announced plans to end the state's celebration of Confederate Memorial Day on a date determined by the governor and Confederate History Month during a news conference Friday at the state Capitol.
State Sen. Vincent Fort, an Atlanta Democrat, also challenged Deal to eliminate the license plate featuring the flags. Deal, a Republican, initially told reporters he wouldn't urge lawmakers to make any changes then called for a redesign in a second interview on Tuesday.
"He needs to take a cue from some of his Republican governors in other states who are calling for the elimination of Confederate symbols, state-authorized Confederate symbols," Fort said. "If you're a private citizen and you want to have a shrine to the Confederacy in your home or your backyard and go pray to it every night, that's your business. But the state of Georgia should not be in the business of authorizing by deed or action the Confederacy, which is such a painful, painful part of the history of the South and this country."
South Carolina's Gov. Nikki Haley has called for a battle flag to be removed at her state's Capitol, and Alabama's Gov. Robert Bentley quietly had 4 flags removed from the Capitol grounds. Governors in several other states have called for the end of license plates similar to Georgia's.