Yes, Congress decides who lies in state or in honor

Current and former members of the government lie in state, while private citizens lie in honor.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell died due to complications from Covid-19, according to a statement from his family on Facebook. Powell, 84, had been treated for several years for multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer.

General Colin L. Powell, former U.S. Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, passed away this...

Posted by General Colin L. Powell on Monday, October 18, 2021

When a distinguished government official dies, like Senator John McCain or Congressman and civil rights activist John Lewis, it is customary practice for their body to lie in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. 

THE QUESTION

Does Congress decide who lies in state or in honor?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is true.

Yes, Congress and the deceased’s family decides who can lie in state.

WHAT WE FOUND

The Architect of the Capitol is a government agency that manages the operations of the U.S. Capitol building and surrounding land. According to its website: “Any person who has rendered distinguished service to the nation may lie in a state if the family so wishes and Congress approves.” 

Lying in state is when, after a member of the government dies, their casket is on display in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. 

An official is lying in repose if their casket is in any other type of building. For example, when Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s casket was moved from the Rotunda to the Supreme Court, she lay in repose.

When a private citizen dies and their casket is at the Capitol, that person lies in honor. 

“Since Henry Clay in 1852, the U.S. Capitol has been used as a place to pay tribute to the Nation’s most distinguished citizens. Made available for public viewing in the Capitol, persons who have “lain in state” traditionally have been American officials, judges, and military leaders, including 12 U.S. Presidents,” the U.S. House of Representatives Archives website says.

Ginsburg was the first woman to lie in state.

Neither Congress nor Powell’s family had issued a statement on if he would lie in state at the time of publication. 

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