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Anti-Gay Group To Challenge Protest Ban


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Anti-Gay Group To Challenge Protest Ban

by The Associated Press

March 2, 2006 - 9:00 pm ET

(Anderson, Missouri) Members of a Kansas group known for their "God Hates Fags" placards say they'll picket the weekend funeral of a Missouri soldier, setting up the first direct challenge of a new state law.

Army Pfc. Christopher L. Marion, killed last week by a roadside bomb in Iraq, will be buried Saturday in Anderson, south of Joplin in the southwest corner of Missouri.

And the Topeka, Kan.-based Westboro Baptist Church will be there, said Shirley Phelps-Roper, the daughter of the Rev. Fred Phelps. He founded the nondenominational church that claims God is allowing soldiers, coal miners and others to be killed because the United States tolerates homosexuals.

Phelps-Roper, one of several attorneys in the family, called Missouri's new law impotent and said the lawmakers who passed it violated their oath to the Constitution.

The law bans picketing and protests "in front of or about" any church, cemetery or funeral establishment from one hour before a funeral until one hour after it ends.

"The Supreme Court says before or about means directly in front," Phelps-Roper said. "We'll be across the street or down the street. We'll keep a respectful distance and put our signs in the air."

The independent church, made up largely of Phelps' family members, has picketed for years at the funerals of gays, but more recently expanded its protests to include the funerals of members of the U.S. military killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Signs carried by the protesters have include those reading "God Made IEDs," a reference to the roadside bombs that have killed many soldiers and Marines.

Missouri lawmakers were spurred to action after the church protested in St. Joseph last August, at the funeral of Spc. Edward Myers. Similar legislation has been under consideration in at least 13 other states.

The Missouri law was signed last week by Sen. Michael Gibbons, acting as governor while both Gov. Matt Blunt and Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder were out of the state. It immediately went into effect. Blunt followed up with a ceremonial signing on Wednesday.

Spence Jackson, a spokesman for Blunt, said Phelps group would be well-advised to adhere to the new law, or face the consequences.

The law makes violation a misdemeanor, with fines and possible jail time that increase for repeat offenders.

©365Gay.com 2006

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