WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Olympia J. Snowe testified Wednesday during a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing in favor of a bill she introduced to prevent disruptions at military funerals.
Snowe noted that her bill, the Sanctity of Eternal Rest for Veterans (SERVE) Act, has been co-sponsored by a quarter of the members of the U.S. Senate, almost evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. Snowe was joined by Zach Parker of Frankfort, a senior at Searsport District High School, whose classroom project and commitment to preventing disruptions at military funerals inspired her to introduce the SERVE Act.
Parker’s effort to bring attention to the need to protect military funerals from disruptions, such as the infamous anti-gay protests by members of the Westboro Baptist Church, began last year as a class project but took on a life of its own. In January, hundreds of people turned out at the Searsport 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.”
Snowe testified Wednesday that “protests outside the funerals and burials of our fallen soldiers are repugnant and inappropriate — and they undermine the respect military families and loved ones undeniably deserve. Those who fight and die in the service of our country deserve our highest respect, and I commend the efforts of Maine’s own Zach Parker and the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee for giving this issue its due consideration. Indeed, growing support in the Senate and among grassroots organizations is emblematic of the immeasurable sense of appreciation and pride Americans have in our uniformed men and women and their families.”
The SERVE Act would increase the quiet time before and after military funeral services from 60 minutes to 120 minutes; increase from 150 feet to 300 feet the buffer zone around a military funeral service; increase from 300 feet to 500 feet the buffer around access routes to a funeral service area and increase criminal and civil penalties on violators.
Similar legislation is also working its way through House committees.