by Brandon Jarvis

The House of Delegates passed a Senate bill Monday that would remove the tax exemption status for the United Daughters of the Confederacy. In a move that is uncustomary, representatives from the group sat in the gallery as the House voted on the bill.

The bill passed with all Democrats and a few Republicans voting in support.

Del. Wren Williams, R-Patrick, brought the group in as his guest and introduced them from the floor.

This is a common move that lawmakers make every day for groups and individuals from across the commonwealth.

What is unusual is that the group remained in the gallery long after they were introduced.

Typically, guests leave the gallery after they have been introduced instead of sitting through the monotony of multiple legislative calendars.

Members of the United Daughters of the Confederacy remained in their seats, watching the speaker and delegates as they voted in support of removing their tax exemption status.

“This group was visiting the capitol to meet with lawmakers to discuss the legislation that would remove their tax-exempt status and educate legislators about their broad community efforts through scholarships and other historical archiving for preservation and research,” Williams said in a statement to Virginia Scope. “It is customary to introduce these groups on the House floor when they are visiting the capitol. It is also their constitutional right to be heard and we should encourage participation from all groups who want to be involved in the civic process. We should preserve our history in Virginia and allow groups like this to continue promoting their good work throughout the Commonwealth.”

The speaker’s office referred to a statement previously made by Del. Alex Askew, D-Virginia Beach, when asked for comment by the Associated Press.

“This bill does not attempt to challenge the UDC’s right to exist,” Askew said. “It is not about free speech, about taking down monuments or which version of history is accurate.”

The United Daughters of the Confederacy owns a multimillion-dollar building on Richmond’s Arthur Ashe Boulevard.

The building was set on fire during the 2020 protests that took place in Richmond after the murder of George Floyd.

According to the city assessor in a comment to VPM News, the group would face a tax bill of $50,000 if the bill becomes law.

After passage in the House and Senate, it is now up to Gov. Glenn Youngkin to either sign or veto the legislation.

By vascope