An Alabama county official refused to lower flags to half-staff this week in honor of the victims of the mass shooting at a gay club in Orlando, saying that doing so would signal a lack of resolve in the face of terrorism.
Baldwin County Commissioner Tucker Dorsey said he wouldn't lower flags — despite directives from President Barack Obama and Alabama Gov. Robert J. Bentley — because the shooting that left 49 dead and more than 50 injured was not a "valid circumstance" for flying the flag at half-staff.
The U.S. Flag Code says that flags must be flown at half-staff on Memorial Day and sets guidelines for how many days it should be lowered after the death of a government official.
"First and foremost, my soul aches for the families of the innocents killed, and my family prays for them and the world. ... I realize that the President and Governor may make the order, but I believe and interpret their order inconsistent with the adopted flag code," Dorsey wrote in a statement.
Dorsey, a Republican, said he also refused to lower the flags after the attacks in Paris and in San Bernardino.
"When the flag is at half-staff, our country’s head is figuratively held low, and quite frankly, I am not willing to hang my head down because of a terrorist attack against our people and our allies," Dorsey wrote. "We need more than a gesture as a response. I want us, as Americans, to stand tall, courageously, and fight back against the forces of evil, and let’s fight like we intend to win."
Obama on Sunday ordered that American flags across the U.S. be flown at half-staff following the shooting at Pulse nightclub, an order that expired at sunset Thursday. The attack was the deadliest mass shooting in the country's modern history.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest was asked Wednesday how Obama, who has ordered the flag to be lowered to half-staff more than any other president, decides to make such a proclamation.
"I think the lowering of the flag, and an order from the President of the United States to order the lowering of the flag, is a symbolic expression of national mourning," Earnest said. "I think that what we also see is that over the course of generations that symbolism is expressed in different ways."