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4/06/2006

SENATE APPROVES PROTEST LEGISLATION

From the Chicago Tribune:

SPRINGFIELD -- The Senate unanimously approved legislation that would restrict protests at funerals of Illinois soldiers, a move aimed at a Kansas-based church group that travels the country disrupting memorial services with anti-gay rhetoric.

The Let Them Rest in Peace Act moved to the House following emotional debate from senators, including some who witnessed church protesters waving mean-spirited placards and making offensive remarks.

Sponsoring Sen. A.J. Wilhelmi (D-Joliet) said the bill is a reasonable regulation of free speech that gives families a chance to bury relatives "peacefully and with respect."

The measure would require protesters to stay at least 200 feet from a funeral home or a cemetery starting and ending 30 minutes before and after ceremonies, with violators guilty of disorderly conduct. They could not make noise loud enough to disturb services or block people from attending. A first offense would be a misdemeanor, a second a felony.

The bill now goes to the House.

The bill would apply to all funerals and burial ceremonies but arose following angry protests at military services, including ceremonies attended by Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, who championed the legislation.

For nearly a year, members of the anti-gay Westboro Church have been crisscrossing the nation, holding protests outside funerals of soldiers. By their logic, a wrathful God is punishing America for tolerating homosexuality by killing U.S. soldiers. Every funeral, they believe, is a warning from God to repent.

The group's small membership belies its tenacity. Followers have held thousands of anti-gay protests since 1991. At a recent funeral in Kansas, protesters held signs reading "You're Going to Hell" and "Fag Vets, God Hates You."

Lawmakers acknowledged the legislation, which was approved on a 59-0 vote, may be challenged in court but said it would withstand scrutiny.

In other action, the House sent the governor a bill that would allow victims of sex trade, such as prostitutes, to sue pimps or people who control or hurt prostitutes or profit directly from or recruit for the sex trade.

1 comment:

Gordon Cloud said...

This is some legislation that definitely needed to be passed. I am not in favor of the gay lifestyle, but Westboro Church has done much harm to their own cause by demonstrating hate rather than Godly compassion. Protesting the funerals of soldiers is intensely disrespectful and has no place in our society.