Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) today gave the following statement on the House floor in support of the Honoring Hometown Heroes Act (H.R. 1892).

Chairman Goodlatte: On June 14, 1777, the Second Continental Congress passed a resolution establishing an official flag for the new American nation. The resolution, now known as the “Flag Act of 1777,” stated the flag would “be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; and that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”

For the last 240 years, the American people have celebrated Flag Day every June 14.  And over that time, the flag has evolved.  As we all know, changes have been made to its design, shape, and arrangement. The Flag Act of 1794 changed the design from thirteen to fifteen stars, to accommodate the admission of Vermont and Kentucky into the Union.  The Flag Act of 1818 mandated that the thirteen stripes represented the original thirteen colonies, the number of stars matched the number of states, and provided that subsequent changes in the number of stars would be made on the Fourth of July.

What has remained rock-solid over that quarter-millennium, however, is what our flag represents. It represents one nation, freedom and justice for all, and the sacrifices made in pursuit of those core American values.

Current law provides guidance for displaying and handling the flag, so it is afforded the respect it deserves and has earned.  In abiding by these guidelines, we all commemorate the value and love we hold for what our flag represents.

That is why the legislation before us today, H.R. 1892, the Hometown Heroes Act, is not only appropriate, but necessary.

This bill amends Federal law to permit state and territorial Governors, and the Mayor of Washington, D.C., to order that the flag be flown at half-staff in the event that a public safety officer dies in the line of duty.  For purposes of this legislation, “public safety officers” include local police officers, firefighters, and EMS professionals.  These are individuals who make great sacrifices so we all can live in a free country. These men and women work long hours, separated from their loved ones, and consistently place themselves in harm’s way so we as Americans can enjoy our freedom and our way of life.  These sacrifices often go unappreciated.

When an officer dies in the line of duty, he or she is making the ultimate sacrifice for their community, their family, and for their country. H.R. 1892 allows the American people to show their appreciation to these men and women, who are truly the bulwark between order and chaos. They represent the values the Founders held so dear nearly 250 years ago – and their sacrifices must be publicly acknowledged so they are not taken for granted.

I would like to thank the lead sponsor of this bill, Congressman John Larson. On May 3rd, the House Judiciary Committee approved the Honoring Hometown Heroes Act with unanimous, bipartisan support. I urge my colleagues to support this legislation, and the other bills before the House today, to honor the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure the safety of our nation.

I reserve the balance of my time.