A bill that’s designed to prevent disruptions at military funerals received U.S. Senate approval Wednesday night. The measure, sponsored by Sen. Olympia Snowe and inspired by a Frankfort teenager, next moves to the House of Representatives for passage.
The Sanctity of Eternal Rest for Veterans, or SERVE, Act sets up restrictions for protests at funerals. The act would require 120 minutes of quiet time before and after military funerals, up from 60 minutes. It also would expand the buffer zone around military funerals to 300 feet from 150 feet, and increase from 300 to 500 feet the buffer zone around funeral access routes.
The legislation also proposes to increase civil penalties for violators.
Snowe introduced the legislation in April 2011, a month after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that protesters have the right to protest at military funerals. That court case, Snyder vs. Phelps, involved a military family and the controversial Westboro Baptist Church, which has used military funerals as a platform to promote its claim that God is angry for the country’s tolerance of homosexuality.
Snowe credits Zach Parker of Frankfort with inspiring her to introduce the SERVE Act. Parker took on a months-long quest last year as a Searsport District High School senior to raise awareness about a need to protect military funerals from offensive protests. He developed proposed legislation as part of his efforts, which began as a class project.
“Protests that encroach upon the funerals and burials of our fallen soldiers are repugnant and inappropriate — and they undermine the respect military families and loved ones undeniably deserve,” Snowe said in a statement released by her office. “I urge the House of Representatives to consider and swiftly pass this bill to protect the solemn moments of military funerals from outside disruption.”