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President orders national flag to half-staff

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

June 12, 2016

Presidential Proclamation — Honoring the Victims of the Attack in Orlando, Florida

HONORING THE VICTIMS OF THE ATTACK IN ORLANDO, FLORIDA 

– – – – – – – 

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
A PROCLAMATION 

As a mark of respect for the victims of the act of hatred and terror perpetrated on Sunday, June 12, 2016, in Orlando, Florida, by the authority vested in me as President of the United States by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I hereby order that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset, June 16, 2016. I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same length of time at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations. 

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this 

twelfth day of June, in the year of our Lord two thousand sixteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and fortieth. 

BARACK OBAMA

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Update to U.S. Flag Half-Staff Primer

half-staffed.JPGYesterday, I wrote an article explaining when, why, and how, to fly the U.S. flag at half-staff. After publishing the article, it was pointed out that one small piece of critical information was missing. I will rectify that today.

This photograph was taken in September (Patriot’s Day) at a shopping center near where I live, and is a classic example of what NOT to do. I wrote an article about the problem here.

The U.S. flag is never to be eclipsed by another flag, state, city, or company. This is covered in Section 7(c) of the U.S. Flag Code.

That means when you lower the American flag to half-staff, all other flags must be lowered to half-staff as well. In fact, most state flag codes list the same half-staff days as the federal code so this assures compliance with your state flag codes.

So remember, when lowering the U.S. flag to half-staff, lower the other flags first, then lower the American flag.

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A primer on flying the U.S. flag at half-staff

American Flag Half-StaffOne procedure that causes confusion for Americans is lowering the U.S. flag to half-staff. There are so many questions regarding this issue:

When do you lower the American flag? Why do you lower the flag? How do you lower the flag?

The U.S. Flag Code is very specific in regulating the days the U.S. flag is to be lowered to half-staff. Section 7(m) spells out in detail exactly when, who, why, and how to properly fly the U.S. flag on the designated or mandated days.

When to lower the U.S. Flag

When to fly the flag at half-staff is a two part answer. By congressional order, the U.S. Flag Code designates specific dates to fly the American flag at half-staff. Those days are listed here. These dates have historical significance, such as Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, every year on December 7th.

There are eighteen days listed, which Flags Bay tracks on our public calendar.

Who can order the U.S. flag to fly at half-staff?

The U.S. Flag Code, again, is very specific in listing who precisely can order the U.S. flag to fly at half-staff: The President of the United States and any of our State Governors. There is regular controversy over this issue, and last week a mayor resigned because he believed in adhering to the U.S. Flag Code.

Why lower the U.S. Flag?

Lowering the U.S. flag to half-staff serves a couple of purposes. The specific days designated in the U.S. Flag Code shows the flag lowered for mourning or respect. If you look at the list of eighteen days, you can quickly determine the meaning for each.

The main purpose in this day and time is to mourn the loss of life in the defense of our country. Many state governors mandate the American flag to half-staff for resident soldiers killed in action. President Bush signed an amendment to the U.S. Flag Code adding soldiers to the list.

How to lower the U.S. Flag

Again, the Flag Code is very specific with instructions on lowering the U.S. flag to half-staff. Here is the text of the Code.

(m) The flag, when flown at half-staff, first should be hoisted briskly to the peak for an instant and then lowered slowly to the half-staff position. The flag should be raised again to the peak before it is lowered for the day.

But what if your flag is lighted and regularly flies at full-staff? Because the American flag is already at full-staff, the only requirement is to slowly lower the flag to half-staff for the designated time, then briskly raise it back to full-staff when the designated time is completed.

us-txflagwblackstreamer.JPGIf you fly a house flag mounted on a stationary pole, there is a way for showing the same sentiment as lowering the U.S. flag to half-staff. Deborah’s article details how you show the half-staff sentiment on the needed days by using black streamers. This practice is not outlined in the Flag Code, but is a traditional custom for showing respect and mourning.

Another interesting part of Section 7(m) is at the end, it defines some of the terms used in the Section to avoid confusion.

(1) the term “half-staff” means the position of the flag when it is one-half the distance between the top and bottom of the staff;
(2) the term “executive or military department” means any agency listed under sections 101 and 102 of title 5, United States Code; and
(3) the term “Member of Congress” means a Senator, a Representative, a Delegate, or the Resident Commissioner from Puerto Rico.

There you have a complete primer on properly lowering the U.S. flag to half-staff. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them in the comment section.

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They Didn’t Get the Memo

Improper Flag Flying Yesterday, Deborah and I ran over to one of the outlet malls in San Marcos. I couldn’t help noticing that there was a problem with their flags.

As noted here yesterday, September 11 is Patriot Day and the American flag was ordered to half-staff for the day. In Texas, Governor Perry signed the proclamation making it a day for the Texas flag to fly at half-staff, too, but regardless of the Governor’s orders, all other flags should have been lowered because of the U.S. Flag Code, Section 7(c). That section states that no other flags are allowed to fly higher than the American flag, which means—when the American flag is lowered—the others must be, as well.

Apparently, this outlet mall didn’t get the memo from the Governor, because they lowered their U.S. flags, but kept their Texas and corporate flags at full-staff.

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More on the Half-Staff Debate

US flag half-staff at Kitty Hawk NC 9-13-01

The US flag flying half-staff at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on Sept. 13, 2001

Yesterday I referenced an article about the debate over lowering the U.S. flag to half-staff in honor of each soldier that dies in Iraq, or permanently until the war is over. I have watched this debate closely and feel the need to interject my thoughts on the subject in more detail.

News stories abound of mayors and city councils making the decision on their own to lower the American flag to half-staff. Some state houses have taken up the debate on the issue, as well.

The Code

The U.S. Flag Code is quite clear on who has the authority to order the American flag lowered to half-staff. That order can come directly from the President of the United States, or in certain instances which are clearly defined, a state governor. Mayors, city councils, and other individuals do not have the authority to make that decision.

Argument from Silence

Some like Tracy Roberts, assistant general counsel with the Alabama League of Municipalities, is quoted as saying,

“The flag is to be flown at half-staff in mourning for designated principal government leaders and upon presidential or gubernatorial order,” said Roberts. “In those kinds of instances, the city council or the mayor could determine that the flag should be flown at half-staff for that city employee.”

He continues …

“The mayor and council control what happens in the city and if they determine that they want to honor anybody by flying the flag half-staff, they certainly can,” he said. “You’re never going to get a presidential or gubernatorial order for flying it at half-staff for a city official.”

Not Exactly

Let’s look at his statements in light of the Flag Code.

In those kinds of instances, the city council or the mayor could determine that the flag should be flown at half-staff for that city employee.

This is simply not true. If they do, they are in violation of the very document that regulates how the flag is shown respect, the U.S. Flag Code. This can be carried to the logical end that if violates their oath of office by defying the President and the Flag Code.

The mayor and council control what happens in the city and if they determine that they want to honor anybody by flying the flag half-staff, they certainly can,

Yes the mayor and council control what happens in the city, except for determining the NATIONAL symbol of freedom be lowered. And lastly,

“You’re never going to get a presidential or gubernatorial order for flying it at half-staff for a city official.”

That is a true statement, and with good reason, there is no provision in the U.S. Flag Code for this behavior. Period.

Some argue that since there is no penalty for disregarding the Code, they can do as they like. I will agree … they can do that, but it is wrong. The Code is in place to standardize the handling of the American flag, and is not without merit or precedence. If it were every man for himself, the Code would not be needed.

Now some are calling for a permanent lowering of the U.S. flag until the war in Iraq is over. That would be a travesty. American servicemen for over two centuries have died in battle to secure the right of the flag to fly high and free, not encumbered at half-staff.

Does this show disrespect for the soldiers that die daily in our current war? Not at all. It shows the utmost respect for the price they paid to fly the American flag at full staff, not in the mourning or defeated position of half-staff.

I fear the controversy will continue, but again, I urge the use of the tool put in place decades ago, the U.S. Flag Code, to be the guiding light in the debate.

Here is Section 7(m) in its entirety:

(m) The flag, when flown at half-staff, should be first hoisted to the peak for an instant and then lowered to the half-staff position. The flag should be again raised to the peak before it is lowered for the day. On Memorial Day the flag should be displayed at half-staff until noon only, then raised to the top of the staff. By order of the President, the flag shall be flown at half-staff upon the death of principal figures of the United States Government and the Governor of a State, territory, or possession, as a mark of respect to their memory. In the event of the death of other officials or foreign dignitaries, the flag is to be displayed at half-staff according to Presidential instructions or orders, or in accordance with recognized customs or practices not inconsistent with law. In the event of the death of a present or former official of the government of any State, territory, or possession of the United States, the Governor of that State, territory, or possession may proclaim that the National flag shall be flown at half-staff. The flag shall be flown at half-staff 30 days from the death of the President or a former President; 10 days from the day of death of the Vice President, the Chief Justice or a retired Chief Justice of the United States, or the Speaker of the House of Representatives; from the day of death until interment of an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, a Secretary of an executive or military department, a former Vice President, or the Governor of a State, territory, or possession; and on the day of death and the following day for a Member of Congress. The flag shall be flown at half-staff on Peace Officers Memorial Day, unless that day is also Armed Forces Day. As used in this subsection–

  1. the term “half-staff” means the position of the flag when it is one-half the distance between the top and bottom of the staff;
  2. the term “executive or military department” means any agency listed under sections 101 and 102 of title 5, United States Code; and
  3. the term “Member of Congress” means a Senator, a Representative, a Delegate, or the Resident Commissioner from Puerto Rico.

Flag photo via Flickr, courtesy “Jersey JJ”

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Planning ahead for half-staffing needs

U.S Flag flying over car dealershipI noticed too many flags this Memorial Day that were not lowered to half-staff. Part of that likely was due to not knowing it was a half-staffing day (until noon), but mostly it was because the flags were too big to flown at half-staff—to have done so the flag would have brushed against trees, the ground and other things.

flag on top of bank buildingConsider the number of flagpoles that are poorly sited. I see them mounted on top of buildings, bolted vertically onto the side of buildings, or standing so closely beside buildings that to fly the flag at half-staff would in effect, be disrespectful to the flag.

I don’t want to be the flag police, but if you fly a super-sized flag, you need to make sure that the flag can fly freely and hang without touching the ground when flown at half-staff. Perhaps these businesses should buy a smaller flag to fly when half-staffing needs arise.

There is a lovely subdivision I drive by that has a flag pole at the entrance. The area immediately around the base of the flagpole is heavily landscaped, and now those trees are quite tall. The flag is proportionate to the pole and and pleasing to the eye, but when flown at half-staff it drapes into the tops of the trees. I don’t know how they get close enough to the flag pole to raise and lower the flag. The solution for them is to fly a smaller flag and/or cut the trees down. And the lesson to the rest of us is don’t create elaborate landscapes around the base of the flagpole.

The flag code does not define specifically what half-staff means. I guess those who worded it thought we would be smart enough to figure out what HALF-STAFF meant. I think it means one-half of the height of the flag-pole.

black streamers on flag poles

Black streamers on flag poles too short for half-staffing

If you are flying a flag from a pole mounted diagonally off the front of your house, or if you have a flag mounted flat against a wall, where flying at half-staff is not possible, then consider using black streamers to signify mourning. It’s not in the flag code, but is a traditional and acceptable means of showing respect.

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Reminder about Flag Positions on Memorial Day

American Flag Half-StaffA reminder about the flag’s position on Memorial Day:

Flags That Fly 24/7

At sunrise, the American flag is lowered to half-staff, raising the flag to full-staff at noon.

Flags That Fly Daylight Only

At sunrise, when raising the American flag, raise the flag to full-staff, pause a moment, then lower the flag to half-staff, raising the flag to full staff at noon.

Flags On Fixed Poles

U.S. flags flown from fixed poles, such as mounted on the front of a house, can use black streamers to signify honor and mourning. This article that explains how. The ribbons are removed at noon, as other U.S. flags are raised to full-staff.

photo courtesy Flickr

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President Bush Orders Flags to Half-Staff

This proclamation was just released from the White House and President Bush.

Here is the complete text of the proclamation.

A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America

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Our Nation grieves with those who have lost loved ones at Virginia Tech. We hold the victims in our hearts. We lift them up in our prayers, and we ask a loving God to comfort those who are suffering.

As a mark of respect for the victims of the senseless acts of violence perpetrated on Monday, April 16, 2007, by the authority vested in me as President of the United States by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I hereby order that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset, Sunday, April 22, 2007. I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same length of time at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this seventeenth day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand seven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-first.

GEORGE W. BUSH

American Flag with Black Ribbon

If you fly your flag from a fixed staff, this article explains how to use a black ribbon to comply with this order.

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Governor Huntsman Calls on Utahns to Lower Flags

This order goes to all Utah State facilities immediately in response to the mall shootings that took place yesterday.

KSL News–Governor Huntsman Calls on Utahns to Lower Flags

(KSL News) Governor Jon Huntsman and First Lady Mary Kaye Huntsman have expressed their condolences to the grieving families and all others involved with the Trolley Square shooting.

The governor has called on Utahns to lower the U.S. flag and Utah state flag immediately.

The flags shall be flown at half-staff on all state facilities until sunset on Monday, February 19, to honor those victims who died.