Q&A – Who Can Determine When The Flag Should Fly At Half-Staff?

Today’s entry: When the Federal Government provides a Flag Half Staff alert but the State does not, do you follow the Federal Government’s alert? Sometimes the State of Florida announces an alert in conjunction with the Federal alert sometimes they don’t. If they don’t what does that mean?

Bottom Line: Under the US Flag code, there are three executives who can order the U.S. Flag at half-staff. The President of the United States, the governor of a state, and the mayor of the District of Columbia. The order applies only to each’s jurisdiction. In other words, if the mayor of Washington D.C. issued an order but it wasn’t matched by either the governor of Florida or the President of the United States, it wouldn’t apply elsewhere. The same holds true regarding the order within a specific state. If Florida’s governor issued an order that wasn’t matched by the president or D.C. mayor, it’d only apply here. 

That takes us to a declaration by the president. A half-staff order by the President of the United States applies to the entire country and doesn’t require matching declarations at the state or local level. In the example you’ve cited, in which Florida’s governor may or may not issue a matching declaration with the president, it's only symbolic, not effectual.

Typically, the symbolism in that example reflects whether the governor agrees with the decision of the president. Also, governors will often issue matching declarations to express their own sentiment regarding the loss mourned by the half-staff order. Of course, that’s not always a shared sentiment. 

According to the code, the flag is to be flown at half-staff when the nation, a state, or the District of Columbia are in a state of mourning. A recent example of split sentiment occurred when Governor DeSantis ordered flags at half-staff in remembrance of Rush Limbaugh. President Biden didn’t feel it was appropriate and of course. 

Your patriotism and desire to appropriately adhere to the Flag Code is admirable. Lead on and pass it on.

Each day I feature a listener question sent by one of these methods. 


Parler & Twitter:@brianmuddradio 

Photo by: Getty Images

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