Funerals for both soldiers and gay people may become off-limits to disruptive protesters under a bill lawmakers advanced Wednesday, reports S-R reporter Parker Howell. Sponsored by Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest River, HB 194 aims to prevent anti-war protesters from disrupting Idaho military funerals, as they have done in other states, by making such actions a misdemeanor. While some lawmakers said the bill could spur free speech challenges, members of the House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee agreed that protecting the sanctity of all funerals is simply “common decency.” “It’s a sad day when you have to tell people that they have to keep their political views out of the very private grieving that goes on at funerals,” said Rep. James Ruchti, D-Pocatello.
The bill allows prosecutors to target anyone who “maliciously and willfully disturbs the dignity or reverential nature of any funeral.” Other states, such as Missouri and Kansas, have similar anti-picketing statutes, and the language passes constitutional muster as a “time, place and manner” restriction under the First Amendment, said Deputy Attorney General Bill von Tagen. Earlier this month, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire signed into law the “Washington Rest in Peace Act” in time for threatened protests at military memorial services in Yakima and Spokane. Read Howell’s full story here in today’s Spokesman-Review.