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Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton

Representing the District of Columbia

Places in Washington DC

Norton Introduces Bill to Allow President to Order Nation’s Flag at Half-Staff Upon Death of a D.C. Mayor, Like Governors of States and Territories

May 16, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today introduced a bill to add the Mayor of the District of Columbia to the list of named principals for whom the president can order the nation’s flag be flown at half-staff.  The bill is part of Norton’s “Free and Equal D.C.” series of legislation, which insists on equal rights for D.C. residents wherever deficiencies are found as Norton strives for statehood.  Current law states that by the 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.”  Norton said D.C. mayors, who perform most of the same functions as state and territorial governors, clearly qualify as principals who should receive equal recognition.  Norton said perhaps the omission of the District’s mayor was an oversight, because the current federal law was based on a proclamation issued by President Eisenhower in 1954, almost 20 years before D.C. had home rule and local elected officials.

“By virtue of their high elected office, District of Columbia mayors deserve the same recognition and respect as comparable figures of states and territories,” Norton said.  “Adding D.C.’s mayor to the list of officials who can be honored with flags flown at half-staff is a small, but significant, way to ensure equal respect for our mayors and equal treatment for our residents.”

Norton has successfully gotten other congressional and federal recognition of the District of Columbia in many situations where the city was overlooked while honoring the states.  As a result of her work, D.C.’s Frederick Douglass statue sits in the Capitol alongside statues from the 50 states; the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 requires the armed services to display the District flag whenever the flags of the states are displayed; D.C. has a coin after it was omitted from legislation creating coins for the 50 states; the U.S. Postal Service created a D.C. stamp, like the stamps for the 50 states; the National Park Service added the D.C. flag alongside the state flags across from Union Station; and the District of Columbia War Memorial, built with funds from local residents, was kept as an honor only for District residents, rather than all residents, who served in World War I.