The United States Senate swiftly passed a bill Tuesday, that will preserve a 29-foot concrete cross atop Mt. Soledad in San Diego.

The Bill to Preserve the Mt. Soledad Veterans Memorial, which provides for the immediate acquisition of the memorial by the federal government, was passed unanimously yesterday.

The new legislation will become an important factor in the 17-year federal lawsuit by a self-proclaimed atheist to remove the cross from public view, says Charles LiMandri, west coast director of the Thomas More Law Center. The Center, which is a national public interest law firm in Ann Arbor, Mich., is leading the legal defense of the cross.

The cross is the centerpiece of the veterans’ memorial in San Diego, which has more than 1,700 granite plaques honoring veterans from the civil war to the current war in Iraq.

"This has been an extraordinary battle that many have waged to fulfill the wishes of the vast majority of San Diegans, the families of our military heroes and all who believe in the value of history," Mayor Jerry Sanders told San Diego’s 10 News.

The bill was first introduced in the House of Representatives by Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and was overwhelmingly passed July 19 by a vote of 349-74. It was transmitted to the Senate the following day.

The bill now goes to President George Bush, who has said he supports the bill and that he would sign it.

The Thomas More Law Center is directly involved in both the California appellate court and the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of San Diegans for the Mt. Soledad National War Memorial.

A number of organizations have joined the fight to keep the cross, including the California Department of the American Legion represented by the Alliance Defense Fund, the American Center for Law and Justice, and the American Family Association.