The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled a Kansas group notorious for anti-gay protests in Iowa and across the country had a First Amendment right to protest outside a Marine’s funeral in Maryland. But a spokesperson for Iowa’s attorney general says Iowa’s law restricting protests at military funerals here remains intact, in spite of the Supreme Court’s ruling.
The Maryland soldier’s family filed a lawsuit against the Westboro Baptist Church, but the nation’s highest court ruled the Kansas group has a right to protect and the soldier’s family had no right to damages. State Representative Jeff Kaufmann, a Republican from Wilton, says it’s disheartening to have the court rule in favor of these protestors.
“They’re protecting a band of vicious, aggressive people that the vast majority in this country do not respect and do not believe have the right to disrupt the family in mourning,” Kaufmann says. “…This is as unpopular a decision as I’ve seen come from this court in a long time.”
Kauffman was the sponsor of the 2006 Iowa law which forbids protestors from being within 500 feet of a funeral and 43 states now have similar legislation. A group of motorcyclists have banded together to provide a buffer zone outside military funerals where Reverend Fred Phelps and his family stage their provocative protests.
A lower court had ordered the Topeka, Kansas Church to pay the father of the Maryland Marine $5 million for the suffering their funeral protest caused, but the U.S. Supreme Court essentially nullified that award with its ruling earlier today.