State Rep. Pat Rooney isn't too happy about the "Thank God for Dead Soldiers" and "God Hates Fags" sign-wielding lunatics from the Westboro Baptist "Church" in Kansas parading around funerals extolling their hate under the protection of the First Amendment.
For the second straight legislative session, Rooney is introducing a bill that would create a buffer zone between "funeral services of soldiers, first responders, political figures, and minors" and anyone nutty enough to protest it.
His last bill, HB 761 -- which would have made it illegal for anyone to protest the funerals within 1.5 miles -- died in the Criminal Justice Subcommittee last year. The new bill, HB 31, introduces the same exact text, except brings down the buffer zone to 500 feet.
Rooney, out of Palm Beach Gardens, didn't specifically call out the Westboro bums, but it is in response to a U.S. Supreme Court decision in March that threw out an $11 million judgment to the family of a Maryland man who died in Iraq, and his protest was protested by the Kansas crazies.
The bill is intended to supplement another Florida law, which makes it a misdemeanor for anyone who "disturbs" military funerals in the state -- but that law may not fly given the recent Supreme Court ruling.
Rooney's bill follows suit with other states' buffer-zone laws, like one recently passed in Arizona -- which was assembled with haste after legislators got word that the Westboro folks were planning to protest the funeral of 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green, who died in the mass shooting in Tucson at the beginning of the year, in which six people were killed and Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was seriously injured.
"In recent years, various groups have tried to use the funerals of brave men and women that have given the ultimate devotion to our country and communities as a political platform," Rooney's announcement says. "These groups have attempted their degradation within Florida at a number of funerals for fallen soldiers. This bill aims to prevent these groups from desecrating a hero's honor in the name of political rhetoric."
The bill will be sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto.
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