Gov signs bill protecting grieving military families and others from disruptive, hurtful protests

September 17, 2012
06-01-11 SB 888 Coffins Horizontal.jpg

Funeral-protection measure sponsored by Sen. Ted Lieu 
               SACRAMENTO – Grieving family members and friends will have more privacy and greater protections from disruptive protests during funerals thanks to a Sen. Ted W. Lieu measure signed into law today by Gov. Jerry Brown.
            “This carefully crafted measure balances the constitutionally protected right of free speech with limited restrictions on the time, place and manner in which protests at funerals can be held,” said Lieu, an Air Force veteran. “We’ve all been disgusted by hateful protests at military funerals, and that should now be reduced or stopped.”
          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.” But it also recognized that states have the right to impose time, place and manner restrictions.
“Since time immemorial, society has respected the dignity and sacredness of putting the dead to rest,” Lieu said. “This bill recognizes the sanctity of funerals by placing reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions on disruptive protestors."
          Lieu’s Senate Bill 661 – 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 300 feet away and on public property.  The protestors also cannot disrupt the actual funeral services.
         If 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 661 is similar to a measure Lieu got through the Legislature last year only for it to be vetoed. This year’s version cut the buffer zone to 300 feet.
          The bill 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 661 takes effect Jan. 1, 2013.       
  
For more, including a Fact Sheet on this bill, visit Lieu’s Web site at the address below.
 
Ted W. Lieu chairs the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee and 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 Long Beach and Los Angeles, including Venice and San Pedro. For more, visit www.senate.ca.gov/lieu