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Kansas governor signs law restricting protests at military funerals

[JURIST] Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius [official profile] signed a law [text, PDF; supplemental note, PDF; press release] that will "prohibit persons from engaging in picketing or a directed protest within 150 yards of any entrance" where a funeral is held or "conducted within one hour prior to, during the funeral, or within two hours following the funeral". Picketers that violate the law will face up to a $1,000 fine and up to six-months in jail. The law is in response to picketing at military funerals by members of the Westboro Baptist Church [WARNING: readers may find material at this church website offensive; Wikipedia backgrounder]. The law will also allow defamation lawsuits "by the estate on behalf of the person or any living relative of the deceased person" against the protesters but will not take effect until it is upheld as constitutional by the Kansas Supreme Court or a federal court.

The Westboro Baptist Church and its leader Rev. Fred Phelps have staged protests at military funerals claiming that US soldiers have been killed because America tolerates homosexuals. More than 30 states have passed similar laws in response to the group and a federal law [JURIST report] restricting protests at Arlington National Cemetery and other federal cemeteries has also been passed. In June 2006, a father of a fallen Marine filed a federal lawsuit against the group [JURIST report], seeking unspecified damages for defamation, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotion distress as a result of the group's picketing at the family's private funeral. AP has more.

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