Attorney General and local leaders weigh in on Heritage Act constitutionality

South Carolina News

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – The South Carolina Supreme Court, has been asked to determine whether the Heritage Act is constitutional.

The Heritage Act is the state law that protects monuments associated with war, historical figures, or events.

S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson sent a letter to the state Supreme Court, requesting they take over a case challenging the constitutionality of the Heritage Act.

The Heritage Act is a piece of legislation that’s been on the minds of many, as movements call for the removal of controversial monuments, like the John C. Calhoun statue that used to stand in Marion Square.

“We looked at the law, and determined at that time, that the Calhoun monument did not fall under the protections of the Heritage Act, The Heritage Act is written to be very specific.

Attorney General Alan Wilson

While a decision was made about the Calhoun statue, Wilson says we need a final answer on the constitutionality of the Heritage Act.

State Representative Wendell Gilliard says the act has got to go:

“We don’t need it at all…you know that old saying, we’re always last in the things that are first, and first in the things that are last? Well you know, we want to move forward? Then we got to get rid of these old dinosaur rules.”

Representative Wendell Gilliard

Wilson says his office does feel that the Heritage Act is constitutional:

“Our office is going to defend the constitutionality of the Heritage Act, except for one provision of it, but the substance of the act otherwise, we will defend.”

Attorney General Alan Wilson

That provision, is that right now it takes a 2/3 majority vote by assembly to remove a monument’s protection. Wilson’s provision would put it in line with most other laws, which require a simple majority.

Even so, that’s not enough for some groups. Brett Barry of the American Heritage Association wants a stronger stance:

“I find it odd that Attorney General Wilson seems more concerned with exploring potential weaknesses in the law, rather than standing up to the vandals and saying that he is going to enforce the law.”

Brett Barry, American Heritage Association

Wilson told News 2 he isn’t sure if, or when we will have an answer from the South Carolina Supreme Court.

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