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Bill Would Ban Phelps' Funeral Protests Nationwide


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Bill Would Ban Phelps' Funeral Protests Nationwide

by the Associated Press

March 16, 2006 - 9:00 pm ET

(Washington) Rep. Mark Kennedy said Wednesday that he will push an amendment this week aimed at curtailing anti-gay protests held at military funerals.

Under the amendment, the Defense Department could not spend money to issue a permit authorizing a demonstration at a military funeral held at a Defense Department or Veterans Affairs cemetery.

Because it is limited to federal property, Kennedy's amendment would not have prevented the protest last month at Cpl. Andrew Kemple's funeral in Anoka, Minn., which generated widespread revulsion in the state.

But Kennedy, a Minnesota Republican who is running for Senate, said his amendment was inspired by that protest.

"What should have been an occasion for friends and loved ones of Corporal Kemple to solemnly share fond memories and condolences about his faithful service to his country was instead perverted by a hateful display," he said in a statement announcing the amendment.

"Unfortunately, this shameful incident in my district is not an isolated one: this scene has been repeated again and again at the funerals of fallen servicemen and women across the country."

Kemple's funeral was picketed by a small group from Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., which has demonstrated at soldier funerals across the country, making the claim that God is killing U.S. soldiers who fight for a country that tolerates homosexuality.

Shirley Phelps-Roper, who led the protest in Anoka, said she welcomed the amendment.

"The eyes of the world are going to watch," she said, "while this nation, because of some words on some signs on a public street, dismantles the First Amendment, giving away the crowning jewel of all our liberty. That's what this nation deserves."

Kennedy is also co-sponsoring legislation by Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., that would restrict protests at funerals at national cemeteries for 60 minutes before or after a funeral, and require they be held at least 500 feet away.

Last week, the Minnesota House of Representatives unanimously passed legislation requiring protesters targeting funerals to stay at least 1,000 feet away. The Senate is expected to pass the bill, and Gov. Tim Pawlenty said he supports the legislation.

More than a dozen other states have passed or are considering similar legislation in response to the Kansas group. Phelps-Roper has said that group members won't protest for now in states with such laws, but that they're considering legal challenges to them.

©365Gay.com 2006


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