The lawsuit filed late last week by two groups and five individuals who oppose the Hillsborough County Commission moving a Confederate monument says that the relocations violates the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment because it denies equal protection to Civil War veterans.
Save Southern Heritage, Veterans Monuments of America, Inc. and five others filed suit in Hillsborough Circuit Court on Friday, a day after the county received the $140,000 required to move the monument. The County Commission had voted Wednesday 4-2 that unless the private sector could match the $140,000 in public funds required to properly remove the monument into a public cemetery in Brandon, the 106-year old statue called Memoria en Aeterna would remain in front of the county courthouse annex on Pierce St. in downtown Tampa.
Among the legal reasons that the groups and individuals are claiming include:
1) The Board of County Commission did not follow the procedures of the county’s Land Development Code governing the County procedures for the relocation of historic resources or seek the opinion of the County Historical Advisory Council;
2) The decision to move the monument to the Brandon Family Center violates prohibitions against the county donating public property to a private party. County officials had said that public property can be donated only to non-profit organizations.
3) The move violates the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment because it denies equal protection to Civil War veterans. From the lawsuit:
The Commissioners stated that their intent for prohibiting the Civil War Memorial, on all County government property, was to avoid honoring Confederate veterans. The County’s decision gives unequal protection to Confederate Civil War veterans compared to Union Civil War veterans. The United States Supreme Court has held
that the Equal Protection clause protects American veterans who fought in the same war from being discriminated against based on their state of origin before they entered the war. The Court held that a New Mexico law that created two legal tiers of Vietnam veterans, one originally from the state and another not originally
from the state, violated the Equal Protection Clause. “The New Mexico statute creates two tiers of resident Vietnam veterans, identifying resident veterans who settled in the State after May 8, 1976, as in a sense “second-class citizens.” This discrimination on the basis of residence is not supported by any identifiable state
interest. . . .”
4) The suit also charges that the plaintiff and the residents of Hillsborough County will be irreparably harmed if a temporary and ultimately permanent injunction is not granted because removing the century-old Civil War memorial, from 1911, “may cause permanent structural damage and result in a considerable expenditure of public funds as the relocation of the Civil War Memorial is expected to cost approximately $280,000.00., and returning it to its original location may cost another $280,000.00 in public expenditures.”