South Carolina legislature advances bill to remove Confederate flag

The Confederate battle flag flies at the South Carolina state house grounds on July 8, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina.
The Confederate battle flag flies at the South Carolina state house grounds on July 8, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina.PHOTO: AFP

MIAMI (REUTERS) - The South Carolina House of Representatives voted early Thursday to advance a bill to remove the Confederate battle flag from the state capitol grounds after an emotional 13-hour debate over the controversial banner.

The flag is a symbol of slavery and racism for many and Southern heritage for others. The bill, already approved by the Senate, passed by a margin of 93-27 and now heads to a third and final House reading.

If it passes, it will go to Governor Nikki Haley to be signed into law, perhaps as soon as Thursday. Haley has said she will sign it.

The legislature first took up the bill on Monday, less than three weeks after nine black worshippers were gunned down on June 17 during Bible study at a church with a historically black congregation in Charleston.