Florida Makes Funeral Protesting a Crime
The state of Florida has decided to take a strong stand on the protests that have sprung up against protesters making political statements at funerals; the protests have been a particular problem at the funerals of members of the armed forces and have taken place across the U.S. In response the Florida State Legislature has decided to bring in strict laws detailing when and where protesters can be when funerals are taking place.
The bill’s sponsor Republican Lizbeth Benacquisto representing Fort Myers saw the Funeral Buffer Bill pass the state legislature and be signed into law effective October 1st 2013 by Governor Rick Scott. The new law, which is punishable with up to a year in jail requires all protests to take place no closer than 500 feet from the funeral venue, a distance that cannot be encroached upon one hour before the funeral, during the funeral and one hour after the funeral. The buffer zone is designed to ensure the protesters maintain their right to free speech while the family and friends of the deceased have the space to grieve and pay their last respects in privacy.
With protests by religious groups, such as the Westboro Baptist Church, taking place at a large number of military funerals across the United States, the state of Florida has decided to take a stand to protect friends and families. Although aimed at reducing the impact protests have on military funerals, the Buffer Bill is not limited in scope to only those of U.S. military service people. All funerals will be subject to the ban on protests within 500 feet of the funeral; some protests have spilled over into angry physical confrontations between protesters and those supporting military families.