FRANKFORT, Maine — A young man whom Sen. Olympia Snowe has credited with helping inspire federal legislation to deter “repugnant protests” during military funerals is hoping to make it to Washington, D.C., for an upcoming committee hearing for the bill.
Snowe and 13 bipartisan co-sponsors introduced the SERVE Act in February. If passed, the legislation would set penalties for those whose conduct at military funeral services “exceeds the protections of the First Amendment,” the senator wrote in an op-ed published Saturday.
“Without undermining sacrosanct First Amendment rights, the SERVE Act ensures families have the opportunity to say goodbye to their loved one in peace,” she wrote. “I also want to express my sincere appreciation to a young man in Maine, Zach Parker, the Searsport District High School senior whose commitment to the cause of protecting military funerals from disruption has served as ongoing and great inspiration to me and many others.”
Parker, whose months-long quest to bring attention to the need to protect military funerals, said Friday that he is looking for help as he raises money to attend the June 8 Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing.
“This could very well impact everyone in America,” the Frankfort teen wrote in an email. “By influencing the Veterans’ Affairs Committee to present this bill, this would allow an immediate admittance to the Senate floor for the big vote!”
Ken Lundberg, Snowe’s spokesperson, said Friday that Parker has been invited to come to the Capitol to watch the process.
“Given the inspiration he’s provided, the senator would love to have him in the room,” he said.
Parker’s work began as a class project but took on a life of its own. In January, hundreds of people turned out at the high school to hear him present his own proposed legislation to ban protests at military funerals. He also traveled twice to Boston to be a guest on the national television program “Fox & Friends.”
He wrote that when Snowe asked him to head to Washington for the committee hearing, he realized it would mean missing some of his senior year preparation activities, but that it was worth it.
“Feeling this was a major priority, I told the senator I would do my best,” he wrote.
For more information about donating to Parker’s travel expenses or about his project, email firstname.lastname@example.org