Missouri County Lowering Flag To Protest Marriage Equality

By John Celock

A county in southeast Missouri has voted to lower flags to lower than half-mast for a year to protest the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same sex marriage nationwide.

The Dent County Commission voted unanimously Monday to lower the flags on the 26th day of each month for the next year as “mourning” periods, the Salem News online reported. The Supreme Court ruled on June 26 that same sex marriage was constitutional around the country.

The Salem News online reported that Presiding County Commissioner Darrell Skiles (R) issued a public letter earlier in the meeting protesting the ruling. In the letter Skiles wrote that the flag decision would show “all who see these flags at this lowered position be reminded of this despicable Supreme Court travesty.”

The phone number for the county commission office for Skiles and Commissioners Dennis Purcell (R) and Gary Larson (R) was not answered on Monday afternoon. The phone at the Dent County clerk’s office was also not answered Monday afternoon. A message left for Larson at his Salem residence by The Celock Report Monday afternoon was not returned.

The Dent County decision has drawn criticism from progressive and LGBT activist groups around Missouri. PROMO, Missouri’s LGBT advocacy group, denounced the decision in a statement and has taken to social media to protest under the hashtag #DentDiscriminates.

“Instead of choosing to honor and respect all residents, the Dent County Commission chose to send a dangerous message that LGBT people are unwelcome in Dent County,” PROMO deputy director Stephanie Perkins said in a statement provided to The Celock Report. “This action is disheartening and disappointing.”

The decision comes as state and local governments around the country, including in states that have had same sex marriage bans, implement the Supreme Court ruling. Several county clerks around the country have said they would not issue marriage licenses to same sex couples, while a county clerk’s office staff in Tennessee resigned over the issue. In neighboring Kansas, Gov. Sam Brownback (R) last week issued an executive order saying that the state would not take action against clergy and religious institutions that decline to participate in same sex weddings, along with not taking action against religious institutions that chose to not provide social services to same sex couples.

Dent County is a 15,000-person county in rural southeast Missouri, several counties north of the Arkansas border. Salem, the county seat, is the largest city in the county.

Sean Nicholson, the executive director of Progress Missouri, told The Celock Report that Dent County should be celebrating the decision not lowering flags in protest.

“Marriage equality is a great thing to celebrate,” he said. “These commissioners look like clowns.”