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D.C. hoping to flag more support from Congress

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Local,DC,April Burbank

When Navy Seaman Jonathan Rucker returned home to the District on leave this week, he and his mother met with Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton to savor the fact that his bootcamp graduation ceremony had prompted a change to federal law.

Norton pushed for all military ceremonies to be required to fly the District of Columbia's flag along with those of the 50 states after the D.C. flag was left out of Rucker's graduation ceremony last January.

"They basically fly all the flags so they don't miss anybody, but they missed somebody," Rucker said Wednesday.

His mother, Tomi Rucker, originally raised the issue when she did not see the D.C. flag at the ceremony.

"It is a boost when you're there, and when your flag comes down and is raised. It's just, the parents go crazy," she said. "Everybody got an opportunity to do that.... [But D.C.] never, ever came up."

Norton carried her complaint to Congress, and the new requirement was included in the defense authorization bill signed by President Obama in January.

"It's phenomenal," Jonathan Rucker said. "I wasn't expecting it, I'll tell you that. I'm over in Japan, just doing my job, and then I get a call from my mother, and she tells me all this is going on."

Norton called the measure one of several "signs and signals of statehood," in addition to reserving the District's War Memorial for D.C. veterans and adding a statue of Frederick Douglass to represent D.C. in the Capitol.

"The one that meant the most to me was this one," Norton said. "Here's a case where the action of one family changed federal law."

"We don't believe that statehood is achieved through symbols, but we believe that these symbols are indicative of states, and therefore we compile them to the greatest extent possible," Norton said.

Norton said some members of Congress "have resisted these symbolic recognitions... for the trivial reason that this could somehow be part of the journey to statehood. Well, of course it is," she said.

Norton has also advocated "budget autonomy" for D.C., which would lessen congressional control of the District's finances. Residents will vote on a budget autonomy referendum on April 23.

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