AZ Lawmakers Expected to Pass a Law Prohibiting Picketing at Funerals; Aim to Halt Protests at Tucson Shooting Victims' Funerals

sinema kyrsten 2.jpg
Senator Kyrsten Sinema
State lawmakers proposed emergency legislation Tuesday to head off picketing by a Topeka, Kansas, church at the funeral service for a 9-year-old girl who was among six people killed during Saturday's shooting in Tucson.

The state Senate passed a bill, which is being considered by the House of Representatives and will go to the governor's desk for her signature. A spokesman for Governor Jan Brewer said she would sign it.

The proposed law -- Senate Bill 1101 -- would make it a class 1 misdemeanor to protest within 300 feet of a funeral or burial service at a cemetery, funeral home, church, or synagogue one hour before or after the services.

State Senator Kyrsten Sinema, a Phoenix Democrat who is the lead sponsor of the Senate's version of the bill, said the the legislation would only prohibit protests at funeral and burial sites because courts have struck down picketing prohibitions for procession routes.

House Speaker Kirk Adams and Senate President Russell Pearce both support the bill, which enjoys strong bipartisan backing in the Republican-controlled Legislature, the Associated Press reported.

Read more about the fundamentalist church planning to picket the funeral of Christina Taylor Green, the youngest victim of the shooting rampage in Tucson on January 8.

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Ugh, I don't want to defend jerks, but there might be free speech issues here especially since the Arizona constitution's freedom of speech clause is even broader than the U.S. First Amendment. And it's unpopular speech that most needs protection.

"Section 6. Every person may freely speak, write, and publish on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that right."

I think, "abuse" covers libel and slander, but not location and timing.

The biggest danger here is that if one or more of the Westboro crowd gets arrested and charged under this new law and then prevails in court on free speech grounds they can then sue for damages and win money for having their civil rights violated.

The answer is to their free speech will be the free speech by thousands of people serving as a buffer between them and the families of the victims.

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