A group of political and religious leaders from Charleston, S.C. are headed to Columbia to call on state lawmakers to remove the Confederate battle flag flying on the State House grounds, but even if they manage to gain the needed votes, it may be months before the flag actually comes down.

Across the nation there has been a growing outcry for the flag to be removed after nine black worshipers were killed by a gunman with allegedly white supremacist views during a prayer meeting in a Charleston church last week.

The push to take down the flag is the latest chapter in a heated debate that has roiled the Palmetto State for more than 50 years, and several political obstacles make any quick resolution of the argument unlikely.

Prominent voices within South Carolina have joined in the call for the flag’s removal, including Gov. Nikki Haley who said, “It’s time to move the flag from the Capitol grounds,” during a press conference Monday.

House Speaker Jay Lucas on Monday called for a “swift resolution of this issue.”

The state legislature is set to meet Tuesday to discuss the budget, and officials, including Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley and state Sen. Marlon Kimpson, have called on the legislators to stay in session and vote on removing the flag. They plan to continue that call at a rally in front of the State House at 11 a.m. on Tuesday.

The Rev. Nelson B. Rivers III of the National Action Network is calling for the flag to be taken down before state Sen. Clementa Pinckney lies in state at the South Carolina Capitol on Wednesday.

Winning a vote to remove the flag will be no small feat, however, and it almost certainly won’t happen by Wednesday.

As part of a deal reached 15 years ago, two-thirds of both chambers of the state legislature must vote to remove the flag.

Kimpson says there is a “growing chorus” of members interested in taking up a debate on the flag during Tuesday’s session, but even to bring the matter up for discussion would require the support of two-thirds of the legislators.

What’s more, even if the lawmakers agree to discuss a bill calling for the flag’s removal, procedural hurdles will take time to overcome, state Rep. Todd Rutherford says. The bill would have to clear the judiciary committee and then come back to the floor for debate, Rutherford says.

“If I had to set a deadline, I’d say about August first, hopefully before September, but the House is going to work as soon as possible to get it done,” he told WLTX-TV.

Sen. Larry Martin, a Republican who heads the state Senate Judiciary Committee, said he favors waiting until at least next week to take on the matter.

Sen. Mike Fair, also a Republican, favors holding off until January for a debate, saying the push for a vote now is “almost being opportunistic.”

Gov. Haley said that if lawmakers don’t take up the the flag debate this summer, she will call them back for a special session.

“There will be a time for discussion and debate. The time for action is coming soon,” Haley said.

Haley is not the first South Carolina governor to call for the flag’s removal. In 1996, then Gov. David Beasley pushed to have it removed from the Capitol dome, only to back off and then be driven from office two years later in the political blowback.

The Confederate battle flag first flew atop the State House in 1962, as part of the Civil War centennial commemoration, where it remained, despite persistent protest from civil rights groups, until 2000. That year a political compromise led to the flag being removed from the Capitol Dome and another raised on a 30-foot flagpole at the Confederate Soldier Monument in front of the State House.

Many South Carolinians, such as Leland Summers, the head of the state’s chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, say the flag is about history and heritage, not hate.

“Do not associate the cowardly actions of a racist to our Confederate Banner,” Summers said in a statement. “There is absolutely no link between The Charleston Massacre and The Confederate Memorial Banner. Don’t try to create one.”

For others the flag is a symbol of the state’s legacy of slavery and racial oppression.

Rivers calls it a symbol of “hate and division.”

“The flag is the symbol of the worst of South Carolina’s past,” he said.

Haley said she is not interested in picking winners and losers in the debate, but said the time has come for the flag on the State House grounds to go.

“For those who wish to show their respect for the flag on their private property, no one will stand in your way,” Haley said. “But the Statehouse is different. And the events of the past week call upon all of us to look at this in a different way.”

William Cummings reported from McLean, Va. Contributing: Yamiche Alcindor, USA TODAY; Tony Santaella, WLTX-TV, Columbia, S.C.; and the Associated Press

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