Florida law includes Confederate holidays. That could change

·2 min read

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Most Floridians don’t know it, but three dates commemorating the Confederacy are among the state’s list of legal holidays.

State Rep. Mike Grieco, D-Miami Beach, has filed a bill that would remove the birthdays of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and Confederate President Jefferson Davis, along with Confederate Memorial Day, from that list.

The legislation comes as a national movement calls attention to systemic racism and the legacy of slavery.

“It seems only appropriate that Florida participate in the modern shifting views of the Confederacy and what it stood for,” Grieco said.

The change would be symbolic. Public employees don’t necessarily get those days off, and the dates aren’t paid holidays for state employees.

Broward state Sens. Lauren Book and Gary Farmer made an unsuccessful attempt in 2018 to eliminate Confederate observances from state law. Their bill stalled amid objections from critics who said it would erase Southern history.

Since then, Confederate statues have been taken down across the South. Mississippi removed the Confederate battle flag from its state flag. The University of Florida Gators ended its “Gator Bait” cheer because of “historic racist imagery associated with the phrase.”

Florida is one of five Southern states that observe Confederate holidays. The observances have been included in Florida’s list of legal holidays for more than a century. Lee’s birth date is on Jan. 19, Davis’ is on June 3 and Confederate Memorial Day falls on April 26.

Although Confederate observances are recognized as state holidays, Juneteenth is not. That observance on June 19 commemorates when the last enslaved African Americans in the United States learned in 1865 that they were free.

Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a proclamation commemorating Juneteenth this year, but it has not been added to the official list of state holidays.

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