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ACLU To Defend Phelps Clan


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ACLU To Defend Phelps Clan

by The Associated Press

May 2, 2006 - 11:00 am ET

(Frankfort, Kentucky) Parts of a new state law intended to prevent protesters from disrupting funerals are unconstitutional, the American Civil Liberties Union said in a federal lawsuit filed yesterday.

The ACLU filed suit in U.S. District Court in Frankfort, challenging sections of the law that the group claims go too far in limiting freedom of speech and expression. The lawsuit puts the ACLU, which has handled discrimination cases involving gays and lesbians, on the same side as Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., which is known for its anti-gay protests.

The law, which also applies to memorial services, wakes and burials, was aimed at members of that church who have toured the country protesting at military funerals including in Kentucky. Church members claim the soldiers' deaths are a sign of God punishing America for tolerating homosexuality.

The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of Bart McQueary, a Mercer County man who protested with church members three times. McQueary couldn't be reached for comment.

The ACLU has asked U.S. District Judge Karen Caldwell to grant a preliminary injunction to allow funeral protests to continue.

"Mr. McQueary clearly has the right to express his message in a nondisruptive manner, even if others disagree with him," said Lili S. Lutgens, a lawyer for the ACLU in Louisville.

Under the law, which Gov. Ernie Fletcher signed in March, protesters within 300 feet of any funeral services would be guilty of first-degree disorderly conduct, punishable by up to a year in jail. The law also prevents protesters from using bullhorns.

Fletcher spokesman Brett Hall said yesterday the governor hasn't yet seen the lawsuit.

"The public should respect their dignity in a very difficult time," Hall said. "That's why this law was passed. It's inconceivable why anyone would want to protest at a military funeral while family members are there."

©365Gay.com 2006

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