On the cusp of America’s birthday, I get to thinking about our national flag – what it represents, and the emotions it evokes in people throughout the world. We all have our own ideas about these things, and how important it is to demonstrate our allegiance. Some people, while as patriotic as anybody else, prefer to not make outward demonstrations, while others feel strongly about flying the flag. All of which gets me to the role of homeowners associations, and their role in all of this.

We’ve written on this blog many times before about associations’ rights to regulate how owners within their communities display the American flag. In Colorado, associations cannot prohibit the display of the American flag on a unit owner’s property, in a window of the unit, or on a balcony adjoining the unit if the flag is displayed in a manner consistent with the federal flag code. However, the association may adopt reasonable rules regarding the placement and manner of display of the flag, and it may regulate the location and size of flags and flagpoles.

The federal flag code is very specific about the display and use of the flag by civilians, the time and occasions for display, the position and manner of display, respect for the flag, and a number of other protocols. For example,

  • It is the universal custom to display the flag only from sunrise to sunset on buildings and on stationary flagstaffs in the open.
  • However, when a patriotic effect is desired, the flag may be displayed 24 hours a day if properly illuminated during the hours of darkness.
  • The flag should not be displayed on days when the weather is inclement, except when an all-weather flag is displayed.
  • The flag should never be displayed with union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.
  • The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise.

There are many other suggestions and requirements, and I heartily recommend reading the federal flag code to get a sense of the dignity and reverence afforded our national symbol.

In addition to the federal flag code, Colorado (as have most, if not all, other states) has adopted its own laws regulating the display and use of the American flag. For example,

  • It is unlawful for any person to mutilate, deface, defile, trample upon, burn, cut, or tear any flag in public: (a) with intent to cast contempt or ridicule upon the flag; or (b) with intent to outrage the sensibilities of persons liable to observe or discover the action or its results; or (c) with intent to cause a breach of the peace or incitement to riot; or (d) under such circumstances that it may cause a breach of the peace or incitement to riot.
  • Any American flag displayed by or on behalf of the state must be displayed in accordance with the federal flag code.
  • Any state agency or local government that purchases a flag of the United States for display may only display such flag if it has been made in the United States.
  • The right to display reasonably the flag of the United States shall not be infringed with respect to the display: (a) on an individual’s person; (b) anywhere on an individual’s personal or real property, subject to reasonable restrictive covenants.

Whatever your position is with regard to displaying the American flag, we hope you and yours have a happy and safe America’s birthday, in land of the free and the home of the brave.