A woman wearing a Confederate flag bikini holds a beer during the annual Redneck Ganmes in Georgia. (Gett/ Stephen Morton))
A woman wearing a Confederate flag bikini holds a beer during the annual Redneck Games in Georgia. (Gett/ Stephen Morton)

A bill outlawing the Confederate flag which was flown by southern slave-owning states during the US Civil War is poised to be enacted in California.

The bill passed the state legislature almost unanimously, and is now awaiting the signature of state governor Jerry Brown for it to pass into law.

Assemblyman Isadore Hall, who sponsored the bill, argued that the law was necessary to "fend off the ugly hatred of racism".

The flag, which is officially called The Confederate Battle Flag, or the Southern Cross, depicts diagonal blue and white stripes over a red background. The flag's 11 stars represent each of the original states of the southern confederacy, plus Kentucky and Missouri, which fought the northern states of the Union to defend their right to own slaves during the 1861-1865 conflict.

Assemblyman Hall introduced the legislation after his mother saw replica Confederate currency bearing the flag being sold in the Capitol Hill gift shop, which no longer stocks the item.

"Its symbolism in history is directly linked to the enslavement, torture and murder of millions of Americans," Hall said of the Confederate flag. "The state of California should not be in the business of promoting hate toward others," the New York Daily News quoted him saying in May.

The flag is widely used as a symbol of southern cultural identity, and in the past courts have upheld rights of individuals to display it on first amendment grounds.

Recently, a Louisiana appeals court overturned a Texas Department of Motor Vehicles Board decision not to allow the Sons of Confederate Veterans group the right to use the flag on vehicle number plates.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly cast the sole vote opposing the motion in an earlier State Assembly vote, arguing that the bill "would silence free speech".

The ban prevents all state government departments selling or displaying the flag, or items containing it.

The bill was moderated to exclude non-governmental employees and business from the ban, to avoid violating free speech protections.