JACKSON — The U.S. Supreme Court is asking attorneys for Mississippi’s governor to file arguments defending the Confederate battle emblem on the state flag.
The court on Tuesday set a Sept. 28 deadline for the filing.
Mississippi has the last state flag featuring the Confederate battle emblem. Critics say the symbol is racist, and supporters say it represents history.
Carlos Moore, an African-American attorney in Mississippi, filed suit in 2016 seeking to have the flag declared an unconstitutional relic of slavery.
A federal district judge and an appeals court ruled against Moore, but his attorneys asked the Supreme Court in June to consider the case during the term that begins in October. Moore’s attorneys said lower courts were wrong to reject his argument that the flag is a symbol of white supremacy that harms Moore and his young daughter by violating the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection to all citizens.
Moore and one of his attorneys, Michael Scott, said Tuesday it’s a good sign that justices are requesting arguments from Republican Gov. Phil Bryant.
“While this does not mean that the Supreme Court will take the case, it shows that they are giving serious consideration to the petition,” Scott said. “We are very pleased by this development and remain hopeful that the Supreme Court will agree that the equal protection issues we have raised are worthy of the court’s time.”
Mississippi has used the flag since 1894, displaying its red field and tilted blue cross dotted with 13 white stars in the upper left corner. In a 2001 election voters decided to keep it, and Bryant has often said that if the flag design is to be reconsidered, it should be done in another statewide election.
Several cities and towns and all eight of the state’s public universities have stopped flying the flag amid concerns that it is offensive in a state where 38 percent of the population is black. Many took action after the June 2015 massacre of nine black worshippers at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, by an avowed white supremacist who posed with the Confederate battle flag in photos posted online.