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Arizona Legislature To Announce Anti-Westboro Law To Protect Shooting Victims

The Huffington Post    
First Posted: 01/11/11 09:06 AM ET Updated: 05/25/11 07:25 PM ET

Arizona's state legislature has announced a legislative effort to combat the infamous Westboro Baptist Church's plans to picket the funerals of the shooting victims in Tucson over the weekend.

"We're going to try to protect the families from undue harassment," State Rep. Daniel Patterson (D), one of the leaders of a bipartisan group of legislators, told Talking Points Memo Monday.

While the Topeka-based congregation has been best known for their incendiary anti-gay, pro-dead soldier messages, they have now decided to take their insensitive protest to the services of victims -- including a 9-year-old girl and a 30-year-old Giffords aide who was set to be married -- killed by Jared Lee Loughner on Saturday.

The chair of the Pima County GOP, for one, has since said that he thinks such a law is a dangerous infringement on free speech laws.

"I don't know what's in the law, but I do think it's indicative of always looking to the law to solve problems," Brian Miller told TPM in a later interview. "We will not sign on or advocate any policy that limits free speech."

Miller tells TPM that there are plans to enact a non-legislative, 1st Amendment-preserving blockade to the agitating religious group:

The county GOP and the Pima County Democrats plan to work jointly to stage a counter-protest that Miller says will "block" Westboro and its infamous leader, Fred Phelps, from getting close to the mourners.

The Supreme Court is currently considering a case against Westboro filed by the father of a dead Marine who is trying to seek damages from the group, which picketed his son's funeral.

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