Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Wednesday signed a law which prohibits local governments from removing historical monuments that have been in place for at least 40 years.
The new law — named the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act — follows New Orleans’ recent removal of four Confederate monuments in that city. The law, which the state legislature approved last week, also prohibits renaming public buildings and streets whose names have been in place for 40 years or more.
The legislation was sponsored by State Sen. Gerald Allen, a Republican from Tuscaloosa.
“I appreciate Gov. Ivey standing up for the thoughtful preservation of Alabama’s history,” Allen said in a statement. “Contrary to what its detractors say, the Memorial Preservation Act is intended to preserve all of Alabama’s history — the good and the bad — so our children and grandchildren can learn from the past to create a better future.”
The move was sharply denounced by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is based in Montgomery, Ala.
“These racist symbols have no place on government property, where they counter our nation’s core principle to ensure liberty and justice for all,” said Legal Director Rhonda Brownstein. “Other states and municipalities are removing these monuments from public property and placing them in museums, where people can learn the full history of slavery, the Civil War and the Confederacy. That’s where they belong.”
“By signing this bill, Gov. Kay Ivey indicates that lauding white supremacy is more important than demonstrating equality for all Alabamians,” Brownstein added.
Mobile is home to a number of monuments and streets which honor Confederate figures, including a monument to Confederate naval officer Raphael Semmes and streets named for Confederate military figures P.G.T. Beauregard, Robert E. Lee, Joseph E. Johnston, Leonidas Polk, Nathan Bedford Forrest, and Earl van Dorn.
Former Gov. Robert Bentley made national headlines in 2015 when he ordered Confederate flags removed from the grounds of the state house. Mobile city officials voted the same year to remove the Confederate flag from the city’s seal.