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Kansas Supreme Court delays hearing constitutionality of funeral picketing law

[JURIST] The Kansas Supreme Court [official website] delayed a bid by Kansas Attorney General Paul Morrison [official profile] to test the constitutionality of an anti-funeral picketing law [PDF text; supplemental note, PDF] Wednesday, saying it wasn't sure whether Gov. Kathleen Sebelius [official website] was correctly named as the defendant. The court sought clarification from Morrison before August 24. The court, which may dismiss the lawsuit, also asked Morrison to specify what relief his lawsuit is seeking because there was no "case or controversy" as the law has not yet entered into effect. Morrison has indicated that he will file a response [press release] to address the court's concerns. He had asked the court to rule on whether legislators had the authority to force Morrison to file a lawsuit against funeral picketers, and whether the law was constitutional.

The law, signed by Sebelius [JURIST report] in April, does not take effect until it is upheld as constitutional by the Kansas Supreme Court or a federal court. Morrison's lawsuit [JURIST report], filed in consultation with the Kansas legislature, is necessary because the Kansas Supreme Court does not issue advisory opinions. The law was passed in response to picketing at military funerals by members of the Westboro Baptist Church [WARNING: readers may find materials at this church website offensive; Wikipedia backgrounder], who claim that US soldiers have been killed because American tolerates homosexuals. The law 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 funereal." The law will also allow defamation lawsuits "by the estate on behalf of the person or any living relative of the deceased person" against protesters. 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. AP has more.

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