Lawmakers rally for veteran who could lose house for hanging flag

Two Florida congressmen are sticking up for a Jacksonville man who might lose his home for hanging an American flag on his front porch.

Larry Murphree is facing foreclosure this month, after the 73-year-old veteran refused to pay $8,000 in fines for hanging a small flag in a flower pot. The flag violated the rules of the homeowners association that he belongs to.

Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), vice chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, fired back at the homeowners association on Tuesday, and said Murphree's constitutional rights are being trampled.

"When did we relinquish our common sense as citizens in this country?" Bilirakis told The Hill. "It is absurd that a veteran who wants to display his love of country is being punished. It is even more preposterous that he could lose his home. The homeowners association should do the right thing and waive the fees and let Mr. Murphree exercise his First Amendment rights."

Murphree, who served in the Vietnam War, said hanging the flag was his way of showing pride in his country and support for the troops.

"The flag is worth fighting for," Murphree told Fox News. "If they want to foreclose, bring it on. I'm getting calls from all over the country to stand up. That's what I'm going to do."

Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.), who represents the district in Jacksonville where Murphree lives, called him a "true patriot."

"Larry Murphree's dedication to country in the Vietnam War and his fight to fly the American flag today is the story of a true patriot, and I commend him," Crenshaw told The Hill.

The fight over Murphree's flag started back in 2011, when the homeowners association at Tides Condominium at Sweetwater accused Murphree of improperly hanging a flag outside his home. 

Murphree sued the association, and the two sides eventually reached a settlement.

But tensions flared up again in 2013, when the homeowners association changed the rules to prohibit Murphree from hanging a small flag in his flower pot. They began fining him $100 a day for violating the rules.

Murphree refused to pay and the fines added up. The condo association says he now owes $8,000 and if he doesn't pay up soon, it will start the foreclosure process.

In March, a federal court turned Murphree away but said he could take the matter back to state court.

"It's a small flag, but it stands for a big thank you and it shows the love and respect I have for my country," Murphree told Fox News.

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