The Florida Senate approved legislation Wednesday to expand restrictions on protesters like the Westboro Baptist Church, the Associated Press reported.
Florida House Bill 15, known as the "Funeral Buffer" bill, is largely a response to military funeral protests held by groups like Westboro. Florida already has laws restricting groups from protesting military funerals or burial services, but the "Funeral Buffer" bill would expand protections to civilian services. The measure prohibits picketing within 500 feet of the funeral site, and bans protests one hour before and after the service.
“The loss of a family member or friend is an extremely difficult time for loved ones,” bill sponsor state Senate Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto (R-Fort Meyers) said of the measure in statement. "Unfortunately, across the country we have seen these solemn times repeatedly interrupted, often at funerals for our fallen heroes who have courageously served our country in the military."
Having passed both the state House and Senate, the bill now heads to Gov. Rick Scott (R).
Other states have taken similar measures to prevent groups from staging protests near funeral sites. A St. Louis suburb passed an ordinance earlier this month prohibiting such protests. North Carolina passed the "Respect Our Fallen Heroes" bill in February, approving similar funeral protest restrictions.
Westboro Baptist Church, infamous for its anti-gay picketing, has been the most visible group conducting the funeral protests. The group threatened to protest the funerals of the victims of the Newtown shooting, as well as the funeral of internet activist Aaron Swartz, though both attempts were ultimately blocked.
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