WASHINGTON — Sen. Daniel Inouye will be laid in state in the Capitol Rotunda as part of a formal farewell to the legendary lawmaker and war hero, a rare honor that has been reserved in recent years for former presidents and civil rights leaders.
According to Senate aides, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have begun the legislative process to hold the ceremony, although when it will occur remained unclear at press time.
Although Inouye, one of Hawaii’s first elected officials, was not a president, his shadow looms large over the civil rights movement: he was a life long champion of the Asian American community and a fierce proponent for LGBT rights.
Although once a fairly common practice, in modern times “lying in state” has become an increasingly rare practice for members of the Senate. In 2010 the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd, the West Virginia titan, was “laid in repose” on the Senate floor for a viewing by family, friends, lawmakers and Senate aides. Byrd was only the 46th senator to have a funeral take place in the Senate chamber, and the first since Sen. William Langer’s funeral in 1959.
30 people have been laid in state in the Capitol Rotunda: although most of those have been former or current presidents at the time of their deaths, a handful of congressmen, senators and others have also been given that honor.
Civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks; Washington, D.C. architect and city planner Pierre Charles L’Enfant; and several unknown soldiers have also been laid in state in the rotunda.
Being laid in state is one of the highest honors that Congress can bestow on an individual.
Inouye, a Medal of Honor winner and the highest ranking Asian American in history, passed away Monday evening.