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Washington CNN  — 

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Wednesday praised a ruling this week that affirmed his power to remove the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee on Richmond’s Monument Avenue, saying the decision brings the city “into the 21st century.”

“Richmond took an important step into the 21st century when a judge ruled in favor of our effort to remove one of the largest Confederate monuments in the South,” Northam said, referring to the statue in downtown Richmond.

“These monuments were put up a century ago for literally all the wrong reasons. Today, I am heartened that the judge understood what so many people are coming to understand: that these monuments belong in museums, not in the public square,” he added.

Circuit Judge W. Reilly Marchant ruled Tuesday that Northam, a Democrat, is within his power to remove the statue, though the governor cannot immediately do so. The statue will remain in place pending the resolution of a potential appeal, which challengers have 30 days to file.

The governor announced plans to remove the statue of the general in June amid nationwide protests for racial justice. At the time, Confederate statues were being removed across the country by officials and protesters alike, with some of the official removals being met by legal challenges, including the Lee statue.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said Wednesday that the Lee statue had been erected against a backdrop of White supremacy to show who was in control and what order in society was going to be.

“The Lee statue has held a place of prominence and stood as a memorial to Virginia’s racist past in the center of our capital city and it’s been up entirely too long. It does not represent who we are as a commonwealth or who we’ve become as Virginians. It sends the wrong message to the rest of the world that we continue to venerate an individual who fought to maintain the enslavement of human beings,” said Herring.

Statues memorializing Confederate generals and soldiers have been at the center of an intense national debate in recent years, with opponents of them saying they wrongly honor long-deceased supporters of slavery. Those who defend preserving the statues, including many historians, argue they shouldn’t be destroyed because they can impart important lessons about the ugliness of the past.

CNN’s Chandelis Duster and Ryan Nobles contributed to this report.