Victory for Families of Fallen Troops

 

Chairman Ball Sponsors and Passes Two Bills Limiting Military Funeral Protests

Albany, N.Y. – (06/17/11) – Senator Greg Ball (R, C – Patterson), Chairman of the Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs Committee, is celebrating the passage of two bills, that he sponsored, which ban individuals and groups from protesting at the funerals of military personnel. The bills, which authorize municipalities to create a permit system for demonstrations, are intended to protect military families from groups who have used military funerals as a platform to gain attention and push agendas.

“Freedom of speech is one thing. Disgusting disregard for the honor and dignity of the fallen is an entirely different story,” said Chairman Ball. “We have legislation and regulations on the books already that pass constitutional muster for public safety at parades and demonstrations. This is no different,” added Chairman Ball.

Chairman Ball has long supported laws that allow families of fallen troops to grieve in private, while protecting peoples’ constitutional rights. The bills were the result of Chairman Ball’s Veterans Hill Day in Albany, where dozens of people testified about the controversial issue.

The bills, which were sponsored by Chairman Ball, and his colleagues, Senators Zeldin and Griffo, will authorize municipalities to create a permit system for demonstrations occurring in the vicinity of a wake, funeral, burial or memorial service. The bills balance the constitutional right of free speech with the ability of families to respectfully mourn the individuals who gave their lives in service to our country.

A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision recognized that persons who protest at funerals of military personnel have constitutional rights, but also that states have a compelling interest in protecting the family and friends of deceased military personnel while they are mourning at such events. As such, a companion bill triples the buffer zone distance for protests around funerals from 100 feet to 300 feet.

  • The bill (S.3901A) requires the development and implementation of a permit process for demonstrations at veteran and veteran family member funerals, and authorizes the imposition of fines for failure to comply with the permit provisions.
  • The bill (S.5605) triples the buffer zone distance for protests around a religious service, funeral, burial or memorial service from 100 feet to 300 feet.

The bills, which passed in both the Senate and Assembly, will be sent to the Governor to be signed.