Calif. Bill Cracks Down on Funeral Protests

Wednesday, 22 Aug 2012 01:07 PM

By Alec Weisman

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The California legislature is expected to overwhelmingly pass a bill next week that would keep protesters at least 300 feet away military funerals, according to the San Diego Union Tribune.
Tailored to conform to a new federal funerals protection law signed by President Barack Obama in August, the measure is an attempt to crack down on the Topeka, Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church known for protesting at the funerals of soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq in order to promote its anti-gay positions.
The federal law only applies to funerals that are held in national cemeteries. But the state law would apply similar protections to all funerals, not just those for the military.
Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a state funerals protection bill last year, which would have prohibited protest from taking place within 1,000 feet of a funeral site. In his veto statement, he cited a Supreme Court ruling upholding Westboro Baptist Church's right to engage in free speech by peacefully protesting at funerals.
State Sen. Ted Lieu, a Torrance Democrat pushing the bill, said he believes Brown will now sign the measure because it conforms to the federal law that establishes a much smaller protest buffer zone of 300 feet rather than 1,000.
Lieu, a former Air Force prosecutor, said the remodeled bill should be acceptable because the courts have permitted buffer zones to be established around abortion clinics.
“The U.S. Supreme Court has always said that government can impose reasonable time, place and manner restrictions on speech. That’s what this bill does,” Lieu said.
The Union Tribune noted that at least 40 other states have imposed restrictions on picketing military funerals.

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