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Assembly OKs protecting grieving military families from disruptive, hurtful protests
August 18, 2011
Funeral-protection measure sponsored by Sen. Ted Lieu
SACRAMENTO – A measure by Sen. Ted W. Lieu, D-Torrance, that seeks to protect grieving families from disruptive protests while balancing constitutionally sanctioned, free-speech protections sailed through the Assembly today on a bipartisan 72-0 vote. “We’ve all seen hateful protests at military funerals,” said Lieu, an Air Force veteran and Georgetown University-educated lawyer, adding that his bill is in response to a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that protected protesters. “I accept the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court has the power to render harmful decisions, but protesters should not be able to disrupt actual funeral services.” The issue began in 1998 when members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., started picketing funerals, initially targeting individuals that they believed to be homosexual. But the Church branched out and in 2006 members protested the funeral of Mathew Snyder, a Marine who died in Iraq. Snyder’s father, Albert Snyder, filed a civil suit against the church, seeking damages. Last March, the Supreme Court ruled with the Westboro Baptist Church in Phelps v. Snyder denying damages, concluding the protesters “had the right to be where they were.” Lieu’s Senate Bill 888 – which is within the guidelines of the Supreme Court's decision – makes it unlawful for anyone to protest a funeral unless they are at least 1,000 feet away and on public property. The protestors also cannot disrupt the actual funeral services. Individuals found guilty of failing to comply with these restrictions face a fine of up to $1,000, imprisonment in a county jail for up to six months, or both. SB 888 is supported by the American Legion, AMVets, Vietnam Veterans of America, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, the Riverside Sheriffs’ Association and the L.A. County Probation Officers Union. SB 888 now returns to the Senate for concurrence on minor amendments. For more, including a Fact Sheet on this bill, visit Lieu’s Web site at the address below. Ted W. Lieu represents nearly 1 million residents of Senate District 28, which includes the cities of Carson, El Segundo, Hermosa Beach, Lomita, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach and Torrance, as well as portions of Los Angeles and Long Beach. For more, visit www.senate.ca.gov/lieu.