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South Carolina House Speaker vows to not allow votes on removing monuments

A ruling that has changed the Heritage Act may make removing historic monuments easier, but Speaker Jay Lucas says he refuses to let that happen.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The State Supreme Court has made a big change to the Heritage Act. Instead of needing a two-thirds vote from lawmakers to change or remove monuments, only a simple majority is needed.

Tom O'Brien, the man behind the "Take Tillman Down" campaign, is once again calling on lawmakers to remove the Ben Tillman statue now that the law has changed.

“What we need is for Republicans and Democrats to come together, take a stand, do what’s right and say the legacy of this man is not the legacy we want to honor on State House grounds,” O'Brien said while pointing at the monument.

He said the statue of Tillman is a blatant representation of racism.

“The culmination of his achievement in South Carolina, he holds it in his hand, is the Constitution of 1895, which disenfranchised black voters and undid the majority of things done in reconstruction,” O'Brien explained.

RELATED: Protesters call for Ben Tillman statue to be removed 

However, House Speaker Jay Lucas says he won’t let discussion of the removal of monuments happen. 

In a statement to News19 he said, “the South Carolina House of Representatives will not engage in or debate the specifics of public monuments, memorials, state buildings, road names or any other historical markers during my time as Speaker.”

In his position as House Speaker, Lucas controls the House calendar, and decides which proposed legislation makes it to the floor for debate.

RELATED: SC Supreme Court says state law on removing statues stands, but throws out key part of it

Brett Barry of the American Heritage Association, is also against removing statues.

“We’re really glad to hear what Speaker Lucas has said and we appreciate his leadership on the issue,” said Barry.

Barry is unhappy the Court changed the Heritage Act’s two-thirds rule, “but luckily the core of the law was upheld,” he said.

Meanwhile, activists like O’Brien say they won’t give up:

“My hope is that we can take politics out of this and those that have shown that they’re willing to do what’s right, even if it’s costly, will make a move to remove what is in offense to so many South Carolinians.”

O'Brien is holding a "Take Tillman Down" rally on Saturday, September 25.

RELATED: USC report recommends removing names of Strom Thurmond, Longstreet, Thomas Cooper from campus buildings