Yael T. Abouhalkah

Dent County moves to cancel homophobic flag-flying protest of gay marriage

Attention Dent County officials: This is the proper time to fly the U.S. flag at half-staff. Leaders of Wellsville, Kan., did it to honor Jake Butler after he was killed in the Iraq war.
Attention Dent County officials: This is the proper time to fly the U.S. flag at half-staff. Leaders of Wellsville, Kan., did it to honor Jake Butler after he was killed in the Iraq war. File photo

After less than 24 hours of looking like dummies on the national stage, Dent County officials appear ready to make a sane decision.

The three county commissioners reportedly will meet Tuesday or Wednesday to rescind a move they made Monday, which was to fly the U.S. flag at half mast outside the county courthouse starting in late July for a year to protest the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in favor of gay marriage.

For good reasons, that action from the Missouri officials drew national scorn.

True, it made the rural Missouri county of about 15,600 people look like it was the home to elected officials holding homophobic views.

But here’s the other reason, one that Dent County Presiding Commissioner Darrell Skiles hinted at on Tuesday.

“I’ve had a lot of personal one-on-one dialogue with members of the military,” Skiles told The Salem News. “It’s a mixed bag, some support it (flag lowering) and others find it extremely offensive, and that was not our goal at all.”

In fact, flying the flag at half staff because one objects to gay marriage is not an acceptable reason for doing so, according to official U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs rules.

Here’s one example: “An easy way to remember when to fly the United States flag at half-staff is to consider when the whole nation is in mourning. These periods of mourning are proclaimed either by the president of the United States, for national remembrance, or the governor of a state or territory, for local remembrance, in the event of a death of a member or former member of the federal, state or territorial government or judiciary.”

None of that applies in the case of Dent County, where three local officials decided to display their bigoted views for all to see on the flag-flying issue.

Fortunately, far from all Dent County residents saw things the same way.

Some started a petition to overturn the county commission’s action. It now appears that this forward-thinking move won’t be needed — if the commission rescinds its order.

Still, it’s too late to save the reputation of Dent County for the time being.

To reach editorial page columnist Yael T. Abouhalkah, call 816-234-4887 or send email to abouhalkah@kcstar.com. Twitter @YaelTAbouhalkah.

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