A federal appeals court has ruled New Orleans can take down three monuments to Confederate leaders while a lawsuit calling for them to be maintained in place plays out in U.S. district court.

The ruling means the city can proceed with long-delayed plans to take down statues of Robert E. Lee, Jeffesron Davis and P.G.T. Beauregard.

Supporters of keeping the statues in place, led by the Monumental Task Committee, had sought an order from the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals that would block the city from taking them down while a full trial played out in U.S. District Court.

That case is based on a number of arguments, including the unusual claims that work done by the Monumental Task Committee to keep up the monuments should give the organization a say in what happens to them.

The city has argued that the monuments are city property on city land and it has a right to do with them what it chooses.

Though the City Council approved Mayor Mitch Landrieu's call to remove the monuments more than a year ago, the city has been unable to take any action because of the on-going court case.

A fourth monument that the city plans to remove, which commemorates an unsuccessful rebellion against the state's bi-racial Reconstruction-era government in the so-called Battle of Liberty Place, was not part of the hearing because it is protected by a separate federal consent decree.

That decree dates back to a previous attempt to remove the marker during roadwork on Canal Street that involved federal funds. The city, arguing it has fulfilled the terms of that agreement by putting the marker back on public display on nearby Iberville Street and leaving it there for more than two decades, has asked U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier to lift that order.

(c)2017 The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La.