Elected officials in Dent County, Missouri, were so upset over the Supreme Court’s June 26 decision to legalize same-sex marriage that they voted Monday to lower flags “just below half staff” once a month for the next year in a public show of mourning.
“I just want anybody who sees that to be reminded we find it revolting that the Supreme Court has ruled in this manner,” Dent County Commissioner Darrell Skiles, who sponsored the proposal, told BuzzFeed News on Monday.
But by the next morning, several media outlets had reported on the commission's order and an online petition asking officials to reverse the decision had gathered more than 1,000 signatures.
"This political showcase is hurtful personally to several residents of Dent County and the surrounding area, which seems counter-intuitive to Jesus Christ's message of 'love thy neighbor' for those of the Christian faith, of which most, if not all, of the commissioners prescribe," the petition said.
“I had this feeling like when someone near and dear has passed away — not the same, but similar,” said Presiding Commissioner Darrell Skiles.
On Tuesday, Skiles told the Salem News that the commission would hold a special session this week to rescind the order "out of respect for veterans and those currently serving in the military."
The three-member commission had voted unanimously to approve the proposal to lower the U.S. and state flags at the county court house and judiciary building — the same location where couples obtain marriage licenses.
“May all who see these flags at this lowered position be reminded of this despicable Supreme Court travesty,” said the proposal, which Skiles said he hand-wrote on a piece of paper, added to the meeting agenda, and brought up for a vote. “We feel sadness, shame, and outright revulsion of the U.S. high court’s stamp of approval of what God speaks of as an abomination.”
Under the proposal, the flags are to be lowered on the 26th of each month through June 2016 — marking the date of the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling, which the bill describes as one of “the saddest days in our history.”
Skiles explained in a phone interview why he pressed to adopt a gesture typically used to mourn the dead.
“I had this feeling like when someone near and dear has passed away — not the same, but similar,” said the cattle rancher who was elected to the commission in 2006.
The court’s ruling, he added, “signals the death of state rights and the death of any recognition of basic Christian beliefs in regards to the sanctity of marriage. Our country is looking more and more like Sodom and Gomorrah you read about.”
Despite disgust from some local officials, the small rural county has already issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Skiles said, and officials will adhere to the new law.
Explaining the placement for the flag on the pole, Skiles noted that when soldiers and dignitaries die, the flag is lowered to the half-staff position.
“I want to reserve that position for those who deserve that honor,” he said. But to grieve the decision that allows same-sex couples to marry, he explained, “I wanted to lower the flags to a level below that.”
Asked if displaying such a symbol in the same place that same-sex couples must obtain their marriage licenses sent a message, Skiles told BuzzFeed News: “That's for every couple to decide.”