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Legislation introduced last month by three local congressmen that would transfer the Mount Soledad Cross to the federal government passed in the House of Representatives today by a vote of 249-74, according to a press release just issued by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA.)

The legislation, called the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial Protection Act, is aimed at transferring ownership of the cross and the land it stands upon to the federal government. The cross has been at the center of a 17-year-long legal dispute and has several times been ruled unconstitutional by federal and state judges.

Supporters of the legislation hope that by transferring the cross to federal land, they will change the legal playing field on which the cross case has been contested. The argument is essentially that the cross case is more likely to be heard by the Supreme Court – with its noticeably more conservative makeup – if it is owned by the federal government.

Supporters of transferring the cross also argue that there is far more precedent for allowing crosses on federal land than on land owned by local municipalities.

Opponents of this theory point out that the constitutionality of the cross does not change simply because it is owned by a different public entity. They point out that the cross has been deemed unconstitutional under both the state and federal constitutions, and that transferring the cross to federal land is nothing but a smokescreen and a stalling tactic by supporters of the monument.

Transferring the land to the feds was also what Proposition A, which passed with 76 percent of the vote in a special election last June, hoped to do. That proposition was itself later ruled unconstitutional by a judge and was therefore null and void.

The press release announcing the news quotes Hunter:

Today’s vote is promising news in the effort to preserve the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial and brings us one step closer to permanently securing this historic landmark’s place in San Diego County. The Memorial is an important part of our local identity while, at the same time, representing America’s strong support and appreciation for those who serve in our military.

The legislation will continue to the Senate.

WILL CARLESS

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