ORLANDO, Fla., June 18 (UPI) -- Officials in a coastal county in Alabama are defending their refusal to lower flags on government buildings to half-staff, in defiance of a presidential order for national mourning in the wake of a nightclub shooting in Florida that killed 49 people.
Baldwin County, Ala., Commissioner Tucker Dorsey told CNN he has ordered all flags to remain at their normal position because he does not believe President Barack Obama's order is in keeping with U.S. Flag Code.
The code spells out when and for how long the flag should be flown at half-staff for official government mourning periods in the wake of the death of elected officials, members of the military, foreign dignitaries and "other officials."
The code does not include reference to civilian deaths as a reason for the flag to be lowered, but it does state: "the flag is to be displayed at half-staff according to presidential instructions or orders, or in accordance with recognized customs or practices not inconsistent with law."
In practice, presidents and governors have wide leeway to order flags flown at half-staff in the wake of local or national tragedies.
Just not in Balwdin County, where Dorsey said he has refused presidential orders to lower flags for previous mass shootings, including in San Bernardino and after the Paris terrorist attacks earlier this year.
While Dorsey said in a Facebook post his "soul aches" for the victims of the Orlando nightclub massacre, the event itself is not "a valid circumstance" for lowering the flag.
"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.