South Carolina's state Senate passed a bill to remove the Civil War-era Confederate flag from the state Capitol grounds, where it has flown for more than 50 years.
The bipartisan proposal was approved by a 36-3 vote Tuesday in the Republican-controlled Senate.
The bill now goes to the South Carolina House of Representatives, where debate will likely begin Wednesday.
It's far from clear when a vote may be taken, The Associated Press reported.
The political discussion comes after numerous officials, including Republican Governor Nikki Haley, called for the flag's removal after the June 17 massacre of nine African-American churchgoers at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.
The person charged in the shootings, Dylann Roof, was seen carrying the flag in pictures taken before the killings.
Hundreds of people have held weekly demonstrations urging lawmakers to scrap the official public display of what the protesters call a symbol of racism and slavery.
Many in South Carolina have been calling for the removal of the flag for years. But several counterdemonstrations also have been held, calling for the flag to remain displayed.
Many in the state were stunned to see the Confederate flag still flying at the top of a pole on the State House grounds while the U.S. and state flags flew at half-staff in tribute to the shooting victims.
President Barack Obama discussed the flag during his eulogy for Clementa Pinckney, a state senator and the pastor of the church where the shootings occurred.
"Removing the flag from this state’s Capitol would not be an act of political correctness. It would not be an insult to the valor of Confederate soldiers. It would simply be an acknowledgment that the cause for which they fought — the cause of slavery — was wrong,” said Obama, who knew Pinckney personally.
The Confederate flag flew from the top of the South Carolina State House from 1962 until it was moved to a Civil War memorial in 2000.
Flag opponents said it was originally put up over the Capitol to defy racial integration.
The legacy of the war that divided the nation includes statues of and monuments to Confederate heroes in various state capitals, the flag featured on special license plates drivers can purchase, as well as numerous roads and schools named after generals and politicians from the Confederate States of America.
People in South Carolina and other states who want to keep flying the flag say the banner is about history, pride and family heritage, and is not linked to the issue of slavery, one of several factors that launched the Civil War.
They condemn racists who they say have corrupted the flag, turning it into a sign of hate.
Those who want to get rid of the flag say no one can escape the fact that it once stood for a fight to keep slavery legal and is a constant reminder of the concept of white supremacy.
Charges Against Roof
Suspected church shooter Roof is in prison waiting for his next court appearance. He has already been charged with nine counts of murder — one for each victim. He was charged with three counts of attempted murder Tuesday for the three survivors.
Roof could also face a weapons charge, and federal prosecutors are also considering hate crimes charges against him.