OLR Research Report

November 6, 2007




By: Ryan F. O'Neil, Research Assistant

You asked about the lowering of the U.S. and Connecticut flags to half-staff after the death of a member of the armed forces. You also wanted to know how lowering the flags on such occasions is handled in states with larger populations.

The power to place the U.S. and Connecticut flags at half-staff rests with the governor. Congress passed H.R. 692 in 2007, which authorized governors to lower the U.S. flag to half-staff to honor fallen soldiers. No state law specifically allows the governor to exercise the power lower the state flag to half-staff, but under the state constitution she has the authority to act on matters that are not within the purview of another branch. OLR Report 2004-R-0023 provides further information.

Typically, the governor issues notice that the flags must be lowered to half-staff after receiving news of the death of a Connecticut resident in the armed forces deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. The flag remains at half-staff until the person's burial or cremation.

Other states follow similar procedures. In the California governor's statement about the death of a California member of the armed forces, he or she states U.S. and state flags at the state capitol will be flown at half-staff. The flags are then flown at half-staff for three days. On occasion, the flags are lowered to half-staff in honor of more than one person.

In Florida, the family of the deceased, the chair of the County Commission, or the mayor of the city where the deceased lived can ask the governor to lower the U.S. and state flags at the state capitol, the county court house, and the city hall for a day. The governor can also make the decision to honor a dead service member on his or her own.

Illinois's Department of Veteran Affairs notifies the governor of the death by hostile fire of an Illinois resident who is a member of the armed forces. Then, the governor issues a notice that the U.S. and state flags will be flown at half-staff for the two days leading up to the funeral and the day of the funeral. The notice affects all officially flown flags in Illinois.

After the death of a member of the armed services from Michigan, the governor designates a day that the U.S. and state flags will be lowered to half-staff. The affected flags are all those flying at state office buildings around the state. The governor has urged state residents, businesses, local governments, and other organizations to follow the state's lead in lowering the flag to half-staff.

Arizona's governor announces the death of an Arizona member of the armed forces. She or he then designates a day for the U.S. and Arizona flags to be flown at half-staff.