From time to time at The Daily Flag, we receive questions about the U.S. Flag Code, as well as the National Anthem. Many of the questions are about etiquette.
U.S. Code, Title 36
Our National Anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner, is regulated by law in TITLE 36 of the U.S. Code, and just like the U.S. Flag Code, there is no government agency charged with policing the National Anthem protocol so adherence is based on the honor system.
The Star-Spangled Banner was first designated as the national anthem by congress in March, 1931, with the conduct section of the law added in June, 1942.
Here is the law in its entirety. It is short and sweet, with little room for misinterpretation.
TITLE 36--PATRIOTIC AND NATIONAL OBSERVANCES, CEREMONIES, AND ORGANIZATIONS Subtitle I--Patriotic and National Observances and Ceremonies Part A--Observances and Ceremonies CHAPTER 3--NATIONAL ANTHEM, MOTTO, FLORAL EMBLEM 1 MARCH, AND TREE Sec. 301. National anthem (a) Designation.--The composition consisting of the words and music known as the Star-Spangled Banner is the national anthem. (b) Conduct During Playing.--During a rendition of the national anthem-- (1) when the flag is displayed-- (A) all present except those in uniform should stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart; (B) men not in uniform should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold the headdress at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart; and (C) individuals in uniform should give the military salute at the first note of the anthem and maintain that position until the last note; and (2) when the flag is not displayed, all present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed. (Pub. L. 105-225, Aug. 12, 1998, 112 Stat. 1263.)
I often wondered what to do when there was no U.S. flag present. It is addressed in the second part of the NA Code. Face the music and behave as if a flag is present. Now I know.
The question of singing the Star-Spangled Banner is not addressed in the law, but through the years, tradition calls for everyone to join in, depending on the circumstances. Some situations may be more appropriate than others sing the the anthem. When invited to participate, by all means, sing out!