Norton’s Bill Allowing the President to Order Nation’s Flag at Half-Staff Upon Death of a D.C. Mayor Passes in Judiciary Committee

Feb 12, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) announced that her bill to add the Mayor of the District of Columbia to the list of principals for whom the president can order the nation’s flag be flown at half-staff passed the House Judiciary Committee today.  Current law states that the president can order the flag to 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 the D.C. mayor, who performs many of the same functions as state and territorial governors, clearly qualifies as a principal and should receive equal recognition.

“My sincere thanks to my friend Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) for his support on this important symbol of D.C. equality,” Norton said.  “Even though the District is not yet the 51st state, its current home-rule status entitles a deceased mayor to the same respect as comparable figures of states, territories, or possessions, which are named in the statute.  We can only assume that the omission of the District of Columbia was an oversight and not meant to disrespect a deceased D.C. mayor or the residents of the District of Columbia.  Adding D.C.’s mayor to the list of officials who can be honored with flags flown at half-staff is a small but, to D.C. residents, significant way to ensure residents receive the equal treatment they deserve.”

Norton has successfully gotten other congressional recognition of D.C. in situations where the District was overlooked while honoring the states.  As a result of her work, the District of Columbia War Memorial honors only District residents who served in World War I; D.C.’s Frederick Douglass statue sits in the Capitol alongside statues from the 50 states; 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; and the National Park Service added the D.C. flag alongside the state flags across from Union Station.