Bill adds layer of protection for historical markers

The Confederate monument not far from the Capitol. Photo courtesy: Christaria Barr

A contentious plan that is still being debated in the Florida Senate would allow supporters of Confederate monuments and other historical markers to file lawsuits to prevent the removal or destruction of these monuments.

The bill — SB 1096 — would give people the right to sue if they think they have “lost history” or the ability to teach about the past because monuments have been moved or removed, or because the structures haven’t been protected from damage, was approved by the Republican-controlled Community Affairs Committee last week by a vote of 6-2.

The older the monument, the more important it is, because it provides a starting point for what our country began as and who led our country, according to the bill’s supporters.

The action follows debates in recent years in Florida and other states over the removal of historical markers, many of which honored Confederate soldiers.

James Calkins, a commissioner for Santa Rosa County, agreed with the idea and believes all monuments should be protected.

The “Historical Monuments and Memorials Protection Act” would cover a variety of objects, such as plaques, statues, markers, flags and banners, that are regarded as permanent displays and are dedicated to a historical person, entity, event or series of events.

Most of these markers honor or remember the military service of any past or present service members or the past or present public service of a local.

Individuals who destroy or remove monuments or memorials could be held liable in civil litigation, with the possibility of additional damages known as “treble” damages as well as punitive damages.

The proposal would permit the moving of monuments and memorials, but only to locations with “equal importance and access to the public.”

Several people argue that Confederate memorials should not be removed because they are an integral part of Southern tradition and that history should not be disregarded, even if it is complex.

Owen Girard, a clerk’s office worker with the Florida House of Representatives, voiced his concern over the removal of Confederate monuments.

“There is currently a push in this nation to remove and demolish historical landmarks,” Girard said. “People should respect them because monuments honor Confederate leaders.  We need to protect our monuments. We need to protect history.”

For the proposal to be fully approved, it must be accepted by the Rules Committee before it can go to the Senate floor.