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Lawmaker files bill to prevent picketing at military funerals

By Sascha Cordner

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wfsu/local-wfsu-994060.mp3

Tallahassee, FL – A bill initially designed to stop the picketing of military funerals had much debate during a House panel Tuesday. As Sascha Cordner reports, though the bill passed favorably, some members of the House Criminal Justice Committee had problems with expanding the bill to penalize protestors at ALL funerals.

Currently, Florida law makes it a misdemeanor to disturb military funerals. But, a bill sponsored by Republican Representative Patrick Rooney Junior of Palm Beach Gardens would prohibit protestors from coming within 500 feet of ANY funeral service. And, Democratic Representative John Patrick Julien of North Miami Beach had a problem with that:

"When you're saying all funerals now, it kind of creates a problem for me, because there probably are some funerals for some people that have gone in to the other side where we want to protest their funerals, we want to say we're glad you're gone.' It gives me a lot of difficulty as it has been amended."

House Bill 31 is inspired by a US Supreme court ruling which stated anti-gay protestors in Maryland did not violate the state's 100-foot buffer zone when they picketed a military funeral. Its Senate sponsor is Republican Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto of Wellington.