South Carolina's Senate has approved a bill to remove the Confederate flag from the state capital in Columbia after it was linked to gunman Dylann Roof who killed nine people at a Charleston church last month.

The bill will now have to be approved by a two-third majority in the House of Representative. The final process is for Governor Nikki Haley's stamp of approval before the law takes effect. Haley has already called for the removal of the flag following the Charleston attack.

The flag was originally the battle flag of the southern states during the American Civil War when they tried to break away to prevent the abolition of slavery.

Its use came into the limelight again after Roof was pictured flying the flag.

The bipartisan flag is aimed at removing the flag from the South Carolina State House where the legislature sits.

The bill passed a second reading by an overwhelming 37-3 vote on Monday (6 July) following a debate.

The bill now faces a final reading today (7 July) before it will be put forward to the House of Representatives.

While several senators said they had been inspired by the Christian forgiveness shown by relatives of those who were slain by Roof at the Emanuel AME church on 17 June, there were dissenting voices.

"I do understand that what happened in Charleston got a lot of people's attention. But I believe we're placing the blame of what one deranged lunatic did on people that hold their southern heritage high and I don't think that's fair," Senator Lee Bright, a Republican said, according to the BBC.

He said the tragic events was being used to destroy Southern history.