who can order the flag half mast

Discussion in 'Half Mast / Half Staff' started by pcorbin, Nov 21, 2008.

  1. pcorbin

    pcorbin New Member

    who has the authority to order the american flag to fly at half mast? Our Governor seems to think he does and i disagree. i think it is only the president that can order the flag at half mast. Am i wrong?
  2. Hi there Pcorbin

    Here's the section of the Flag code that refers to your question:

    ''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''

    So in answer to your question - the Governer DOES have the authority to order the flag at half staff
    Hope that will answer your question. :)
  3. Peter Ansoff

    Peter Ansoff USA Flag Site Admin

    This particular section of the flag code was amended last year. The major changes were 1) Governors may also order the flag to be half-staffed to mark the death of a member of the armed forces who was from their state/territory/possession, and 2) the mayor of the District of Columbia now has the same authority as the state governors. The second item was to clear up the ambiguity that DC is not a state, territory or possession.

    The 2007 amendment also had another interesting provision:

    "When the Governor of a State, territory or possession, or the Mayor of the District of Columbia, issues a proclamation under the preceding sentence that the National flag be flown at half-staff in that State, territory or possession or in the District of Columbia because of the death of a member of the Armed Forces, the National flag flown at any Federal installation or facility in the area covered by that proclamation shall be flown at half-staff consistent with that proclamation."

    What this says is that *federal* facilities located in a state must follow the direction of the state governor. As I read this, the flags on the White House and the Capitol must be half-staffed if the Mayor of DC so directs, and the same applies to the flags on the Pentagon if the Governor of Virginia so directs. This almost sounds like a constitutional issue, since it's giving the states the power to give orders to federal officials. Do we have any lawyers on board who'd care to comment?

    Peter Ansoff
  4. moly_b12

    moly_b12 New Member

    here in NW Arizona the local fire stations fly their American flag at half mast at the drop of a hat. why is that? it is offensive to me and i want a good reason to force them to stop the practice.
  5. Peter Ansoff

    Peter Ansoff USA Flag Site Admin

    Hello, Moly -- welcome!

    It's true that the custom of half-masting the flag has become much more common. As discussed above in this thread, Congress amended the flag code recently to allow state authorities to direct half-masting for members of the armed forces. Previously, the code specified it only for senior present and former federal officials.

    However, the flag code is only advisory. Individuals can half-mast their own flags anytime they wish, and there is no way to "force" them not to. You could always try to persuade them, of course, but I would be somewhat careful about doing that. Chances are that they are doing it for a reason that they consider appropriate, such as the death of a colleague or local personage.

    Peter Ansoff
  6. moly_b12

    moly_b12 New Member

    Thanks. I'll have to stop in and find out their reasoning. I'm just not in favor of half-masting the flag like a brides nighty.


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