Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Efforts Grow To Stop GI Funeral Protests

Forty-eight states and the District of Columbia have submitted a brief to the Supreme Court in support of a father who sued anti-gay protesters over their demonstration at the 2006 funeral of his son, a Marine killed in Iraq. Only Virginia and Maine declined to sign the brief by the Kansas attorney general. Albert Snyder sued over protests by Rev. Fred W. Phelps and his Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church at his son's funeral in Maryland. The church pickets funerals because they believe war deaths are punishment for U.S. tolerance of homosexuality. The Supreme Court has agreed to consider whether the protesters' message is protected by the First Amendment. In the brief filed Tuesday, the states argued they have a compelling interest in protecting the sanctity of funerals.But that is not how Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli sees it. According to a report today in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Cuccinelli's office announced it will not join with the other states and the District on behalf of Snyder. "The attorney general's office deplores the absolutely vile and despicable acts of Fred Phelps and his followers," the paper quoted Cuccinelli's spokesman, Brian Gottstein, as saying in the statement. "We also greatly sympathize with the Snyder family and all families who have experienced the hatefulness of these people." But Cuccinelli is chose not to join the legal brief "because the case could set a precedent that could severely curtail certain valid exercises of free speech," the statement said.

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