Thursday, November 6, 2014

Research Q of the Week: Flying The Stars and Stripes (11/6)

Question: Should my city fly the U.S. flag at half-staff on Veterans Day? How about other patriotic holidays?

Answer: The U.S. flag is one of our country’s oldest symbols and represents the principles of justice, liberty, and democracy. It is displayed at half-staff as a symbol of respect. (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.)

The U.S. flag should be displayed daily on or near the main administrative building of every public institution. But, cities should not fly the U.S. flag at half-staff on Veterans Day. Who says? The U.S. Flag Code (4 U.S.C. §§ 5-10) provides voluntary guidelines for the proper handling and displaying of the U.S. flag, as well as information on when the flag should be at half-staff.

Read on for some city-specific tips for flying the U.S. flag.

When should the flag be at half-staff?
  • On Memorial Day, the U.S. flag should be displayed at half-staff until noon and then raised to the top of the staff.
  • The U.S. flag should be displayed at half-staff by the U.S. president’s order, upon the death of principle figures of federal government or the death of the governor of a state.
  • The U.S. flag should be displayed at half-staff by the governor’s order, upon the death of a present or former state official or the death of a member of the Armed Forces who dies while serving on active duty.
How long?
The length of time the U.S. flag should be displayed at half-staff varies from 30 days for the death of a U.S. president, to the day of the death and the following day for a member of Congress. When flown at half-staff, the U.S. flag should first be raised to the peak for an instant and then lowered to the half-staff position and should be raised again to the peak before it’s lowered for the day.

So with the upcoming holiday, take a moment to review the U.S. Flag Code and remember to keep the stars and stripes flying correctly.  [post updated 5/22/15]

Written by Susan Naughton, research attorney with the League of Minnesota Cities. Contact: or (651) 281-1232.

This blog post conveys general information. It’s not legal advice. Please check with your city attorney before acting on this information. 

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