Senator O'Mara, legislative colleagues give final approval to legislation restricting protests at military funerals

June 17, 2011

Albany, N.Y., June 17—The New York State Senate gave final, unanimous legislative approval last night to legislation co-sponsored by state Senator Tom O’Mara (R-C, Big Flats) to allow the state and local governments to restrict protests at military funerals.

The legislation (S.3901-A/A.7697), which was first introduced earlier this year in  response to protests that have occurred at military funerals in states across the nation, was approved by the Assembly last week.  It now goes to Governor Andrew Cuomo to be signed into law. 

Among other specific provisions, the legislation would allow municipalities to require a permit to stage a protest within 1,000 feet of a military funeral.

In a case earlier this year, Snyder v. Phelps, the United States Supreme Court ruled that while protestors at funerals of military personnel have constitutional rights, states also have a compelling interest to protect the mourning family members and friends of deceased military servicemen and servicewomen.

O’Mara said that while any new state law won’t be in place in time to impact reports of possible protests in Cohocton on Saturday at the funeral of U.S. Army Sgt. Devin A. Snyder, he reiterated his belief, which he expressed in a statement earlier this week condemning the protests, that the “outpouring of support for Devin and her family will overwhelm anything or anyone that seeks to do any different” than honor her service and life.

O’Mara released the following on Wednesday:

“These protests are appalling, they’re wrong, and I regret that they’ve found their way here to one of our communities during such a difficult time.

“The family, friends and neighbors of Devin Snyder deserve to mourn her passing and honor her service with all of the decency, respect, sensitivity and solemnity that Devin earned and deserves.

“But most importantly, I know that there’s no way a misguided protest will be able to deter or distract the Snyder family, her friends, her fellow soldiers and veterans, and this community from carrying out their final goodbyes to Devin.  The outpouring of support for Devin and her family will overwhelm anything or anyone that seeks to do any different.

“In the meantime my colleagues and I in the Legislature, recognizing that some so-called protestors refuse to act within the normal bounds of common human decency and respect, are in the process of enacting legislation to reasonably and constitutionally restrict any actions at military funerals that fail to respect the needs of mourning family members and communities.”