Governor Terry McAuliffe today vetoed a bill aimed at strengthening the states’ prohibition on the removal of war memorials. He also called for a special task force to study ways to balance preservation and concerns about the public displays of symbols of the Confederate South.
The bill easily passed in the House of Delegates, but was narrowly approved in the state Senate, where it was opposed by Democrats. The legislation was prompted by a Circuit Court ruling that interpreted the state’s law prohibiting the removal of the memorials to only apply to those erected after 1998—the year the law was expanded to cover all war memorials, not only those related to “the War between the States.”
Last week, the Loudoun County Democratic Committee and the Loudoun Chapter of the NAACP joined calls urging the governor to veto the bill.
McAuliffe directed Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward to form a work group with the Department of Historic Resources “to begin a dialogue and study best practices about how to balance the preservation of history with the legitimate concerns many Virginians have about certain types of monuments and memorials.”
“The rich history of our Commonwealth is one of our great assets,” McAuliffe wrote. “My administration strongly supports historic preservation efforts, including the preservation of war memorials and monuments. However, this legislation would have been a sweeping override of local authority over these monuments and memorials including potential ramifications for interpretive signage to tell the story of some of our darkest moments during the Civil War.”
The governor acknowledged that localities around the state are debating whether to retain, remove, or alter Confederacy symbols.
“These discussions are often difficult and complicated. They are unique to each community’s specific history and the specific monument or memorial being discussed. This bill effectively ends these important conversations,” he wrote.