A county commissioner in Alabama this week resisted a federal and state directive that flags be lowered to honor the victims of the shooting in Orlando.
The move violated an instruction by Gov. Robert Bentley (R) that the U.S. flag be flown at half-staff on public grounds through Thursday, per President Obama’s order.
Tucker Dorsey, chairman of the Baldwin County Commission, said he was justified in leaving flags at full height. In a Facebook post on Monday, he said he was following the United States Flag Code, which does not designate shootings or terror attacks as legitimate reasons to fly the flag at half-staff, he said.
“Lowering the flags to half-staff after mass shooting or terrorist event is not a valid circumstance or memorial as specified in the U.S. flag code,” Dorsey wrote.
Among the occasions the code specifies are Memorial Day and the death of a high official, though its guidelines are only advisory.
Dorsey also said he was acting in line with the portion of the code that specifies that no other flag should be placed above the flag of the United States, a matter of principle that he said was particularly important in the wake of the shooting by a man who pledged allegiance to Islamic State militants.
“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,” he wrote. “I am not willing to hang my head down because evil shoots up a church, school, or movie theater.”
Dorsey said he was sympathetic to the families of the victims but expressed outrage that the perpetrator of the shooting was not being properly identified as a “follower of Islam.” He said it was “evil, not guns” that should be blamed for the attack.
Dorsey wrote in his post that the county took the same position after the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif.
Reached by phone Friday, another commissioner, Charles Gruber, said the decision belonged exclusively to the chairman. When he was chairman, Gruber said, he chose to lower flags, but he would not criticize Dorsey.
“What he’s defending is the code that I guess you go by,” Gruber said. “There’s also code that says that the president or governor can make this sort of order.”
Cole County in Missouri initially took a similarly defiant stance on the flag but yielded after backlash from the LGBT community, the Kansas City Star reported.