Georgia officials have approved the release of a new specialty license plate featuring the Confederate flag.
The Georgia Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans requested the license plate, which features the Confederate emblem surrounded by a prominent logo of the organization. The plate will also feature the words “Sons of Confederate Veterans” in a gold frame beneath the license plate number.
A press release from the organization states Georgians do not have to be members of the Sons of Confederate veterans to receive the new license plates.
The new tag has renewed a debate on what images should appear on state issued materials, particularly between those who believe the flag honors Confederate heritage and those who view it as a “racially charged symbol of oppression.”
Southern Christian Leadership Conference spokesman Maynard Eaton tells the Atlanta Journal Constitution that the state should not have sanctioned the move and calls displaying the battle emblem "reprehensible."
Ray McBerry, a spokesman for the Georgia Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, says the organization means no offense and people have a right to commemorate their heritage.
"I don’t see it as any more of a symbol of slavery than the federal flag. The United States flag of course flew over slavery here in the United States both before there was a Confederate flag and after there was a Confederate flag," said McBerry in an interview with GPB News' Ellen Reinhardt.
The state Department of Revenue says the Sons of Confederate Veterans license place has been issued for more than a decade, but a transition to digital images allowed them to add the flag across the plate beginning Feb. 1.
The department says it currently has orders for 35 plates this year.
Gov. Nathan Deal says he was unaware of the creation of the new license plate.
UPDATED: Feb 20, 2014
Gov. Deal has weighed in on the new license plates.
"I think it is an acknowledgement of the history of our state and our culture," said Deal. "It's been there. It's just a little bit different format."
Contributors: This report also contains material from the Associated Press and the Atlanta-Journal Constitution.