According to one California activist, the state's new law that
seeks to eliminate distasteful protests at funerals is not a
restriction of free speech.
Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has signed a bill similar to one he was
"very tempted to sign" last year. SB 661 prohibits demonstrators
from protesting a funeral within 300 feet, rather than the 1,000
feet specified in the previous bill, of the site one hour before a
funeral starts and an hour after. Beginning in January, violators
face fines up to $1,000 and six months in jail.
The Sacramento Bee notes that Brown
almost signed a similar bill last year but was worried that the
language did not match a 2011 Supreme Court decision. Ted Lieu, the
Democratic senator who introduced the first measure, says he made
changes to the original bill to address Brown's concerns.
Bill Balderama of the Southern California Patriot Coalition believes
SB 661 is legal.
"Governor Brown just wants to, of course, maintain dignity at a
funeral, and that's fine by us," he states. "He's not really
restricting freedom of speech."
The law was penned in response to the protestors from Westboro
Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, who picket the funerals of slain
soldiers, claiming their deaths are "God's righteous judgment
against an evil nation" that supports homosexuality.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Westboro in 2011,
citing protestors' free speech right to picket.