A panel of Georgia lawmakers signed off Thursday on a plan to create a Confederate heritage month, even as legislative leaders reacted coolly to a push to apologize for the state's role in slavery.
Sen. Jeff Mullis' bill would dub April as Confederate History and Heritage Month to honor the memory of the Confederacy and "all those millions of its citizens of various races and ethnic groups and religions who contributed in sundry and myriad ways to the cause of Southern Independence."
The unanimous vote by the Senate Rules committee — which sent the plan on to the full Senate for consideration — comes days after black lawmakers announced plans to ask the state to officially apologize for its role in slavery and segregation-era laws.
Virginia's legislature last month passed a resolution expressing "profound regret" for the state's role in slavery, and lawmakers in Missouri and Congress have proposed similar measures.
Democratic Rep. Tyrone Brooks, chairman of the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials, said it's discouraging to see the Confederate month proposal moving ahead after leaders of the Republican-controlled House and Senate said they're not in favor of apologizing for slavery.
"Georgia needs to recognize and apologize and atone for its part in the slave trade, as Virginia has done," Brooks said. "Until we do, I think there will continue to be resistance from African-Americans and others who are serving in the General Assembly" to efforts like Confederate month.
Mullis, a Republican, said his bill was not a response to the slavery-apology movement.
"I'm from Chickamauga, so it seemed pretty appropriate for me to do something to commemorate the War Between the States," Mullis said. His family owned land at the site of the Battle of Chickamauga, the Civil War's second-bloodiest battle and the South's last major victory.
Mullis has supported efforts to create a Civil Rights History Month in Georgia but opposes a slavery apology. "If I had done something personally, yes, I would apologize," he said.
The state's branch of the NAACP called the push for a Confederate month hypocritical.
"Although the supporters of the Confederate history bill feel responsible to honor the past deeds of their ancestors through official governmental action, they resist all notions that they have any responsibility to apologize to their ancestors' victims through official governmental action," said Edward Dubose, president of the group's Georgia chapter. "That reeks of hypocrisy."
Brooks, who said black lawmakers plan to officially introduce their slavery legislation next week, said he hopes Mullis' bill at least will encourage discussion. He said he's not necessarily against the idea of a Confederate month — as long as similar recognition is given to the state's black history.
"All of Georgia's history should be promoted and respected and highlighted," he said. "Hopefully this will lead us into some meaningful dialogue."