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Legislators seek end to disruptive picketing at military funerals

June 1, 2011 |  2:20 pm

Jqsm8enc Alarmed by instances of loud protests at military funerals, state lawmakers advanced a proposal Wednesday that would restrict such picketing so it is not disruptive.

The state Senate approved a bill by Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) that would make it a misdemeanor to picket a funeral in a disruptive way on private property within 1,000 feet of the ceremony.

"This is a bill that preserves the sanctity and dignity of funerals," Lieu told his colleagues before the 36-1 vote to pass SB 888 and send it to the Assembly for action.

The vote comes just months after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Pastor Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church have a constitutional right to picket military funerals. Phelps and his congregation do so claiming the deaths of U.S. soldiers are divine retribution for the country's toleration of homosexuality. The picketing has included signs that read "Thank God for Dead Soldiers,"  and "God Hates Fags."

Lieu said he crafted the state legislation to comply with the limits set by the court ruling.

"I accept the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court has the power to render stupid decisions, but protesters should not be able to disrupt actual funeral services," Lieu said.

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-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Photo: From left, Margie M. Phelps, her husband, Pastor Fred Phelps, and daughter Margie J. Phelps picket outside federal court in Baltimore, where Albert Snyder won a nearly $11-million verdict against their Topeka, Kan., church, Westboro Baptist. Church members demonstrated at the funeral of Snyder's son, Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, who was killed in Iraq. They routinely picket military funerals to express their belief that the deaths of U.S. soldiers are divine retribution for the country's toleration of homosexuality. Credit: Jed Kirschbaum / Associated Press

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