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Senators Try To Bar Military Funeral Protests By Westboro Baptist Church

First Posted: 04/14/11 02:23 PM ET Updated: 06/14/11 06:12 AM ET

Westboro

WASHINGTON -- The controversial, gay-hating Westboro Baptist Church would be restricted from holding its inflammatory protests outside the funerals of U.S. service members under a new bill being offered by a bipartisan group of senators.

The Kansas-based church often sends members to attend final rites for service members killed at war, waving signs that claim God hates the deceased because America tolerates homosexuality.

Earlier Thursday, five church members protested such a funeral in Florida, and were met by a much larger counter-protest, Patch reported.

Drawn up by Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), the Sanctity of Eternal Rest for Veterans Act -- or SERVE Act -- would mandate two hours of quiet time before and after funerals, and set a 300-foot buffer zone around the funerals and a 500-foot buffer around routes to and from the memorials.

It sets fines ranging from $25,000 to $50,000, and jail sentences of up to two years.

"Those who fight and die in the service of our country deserve our highest respect," said Snowe. "Their families have earned the right to bury their loved ones in peace."

Senators are pursuing the legislation after the Supreme Court ruled recently that such protests could not be barred because doing so would violate the First Amendment's protection for free speech.

“This common-sense legislation will ensure our heroes are buried with the honor and dignity they deserve,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), one of more than a dozen senators to back the measure.

“Our men and women in uniform bravely put everything on the line for our country. It is our duty to provide service members and their families with the support they need while deployed overseas and after they have returned home,” added Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

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