The debate over South Carolina’s flying of the Confederate flag touched many emotions and motivations in more than 12 hours of debate, with several Democrats urging its removal and several Republicans urging its persistence.
The bill to remove the flag from its prominent place flying outside the Capitol was finally passed without any changes, in the wee hours of Thursday morning.
One of the most striking speeches came from a Republican: Rep. Jenny Anderson Horne, a descendant of Confederate leader Jefferson Davis, who is part of Charleston’s Statehouse delegation.
After more than eight hours of debate over amendments to the bill — and efforts to stall it — Horne had had enough. She took to the dais to chastise her colleagues and to deliver a bracing counterpoint to opponents’ concerns about honoring Civil War heritage.
Her voice rising with emotion, Horne said:
“I cannot believe that we do not have the heart in this body to do something meaningful — such as take a symbol of hate off these grounds on Friday — and if any of you vote to amend, you are ensuring that this flag will fly beyond Friday. And 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.
“And for all of these reasons, I will not vote to amend this bill today. We may visit this another session, another year. But if we amend this bill, we are telling the people of Charleston: We don’t care about you. We do not care that someone used this symbol of hate to slay [nine] innocent people who were worshiping their God.”
Horne’s strong remarks never wavered from her point — something that couldn’t be said of the perambulations of her peers, such as Rep. Mike Pitts, a Republican who earlier in the day had introduced a slew of amendments to the flag bill, often interrupting himself to digress into observations about hunting and hearing aids and his home life.
As Pitts and others described their opposition to removing the flag, they spoke at length about their ancestors who fought in the Civil War, and about the importance of honoring their heritage.
To that, Horne said:
“I’m sorry. I have heard enough about heritage. I have a heritage: I am a lifelong South Carolinian. I am a descendant of Jefferson Davis. OK? But that does not matter. It’s not about Jenny Horne. It’s about the people of South Carolina who have demanded that this symbol of hate come off of the Statehouse grounds.”
Horne spoke at a pivotal point in the debate, when it seemed that support was building to adopt the Senate-endorsed bill — but with an amendment about the flag’s future display in a museum that would have further slowed the process of enacting a final bill.
Gripping the edges of the dais and speaking in what seemed to be a controlled fury, Horne concluded:
“We need to follow the example of the Senate: Remove this flag — and do it today,” Horne said. “Because this issue is not getting any better with age.”
Horne barely finished her remarks before an ovation began. Many legislators rose from their seats to applaud her, and as she left the lectern, Horne received a string of hugs from her colleagues in the House.
According to her website, Horne is an attorney and the mother of two children; she grew up in Dorchester County, which includes Charleston. She has served in South Carolina’s General Assembly since 2008.