Saratoga County supervisors approved a local law Tuesday that will limit when and where people can protest at military funerals.
The new law restricts groups protesting at service members’ funerals in the county from any activities within two hours before or after services or within 500 feet of the ceremony site. Violators could be fined.
The legislation is aimed at regulating protests by organizations like the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan. That church has protested at funerals across the country for soldiers killed in action, claiming their deaths were the result of the country’s tolerance for gays and lesbians.
The group has not appeared in upstate New York. It announced it was going to protest at a funeral last weekend in Steuben County, but didn’t.
Supervisors acted unanimously at their monthly meeting to adopt a local law, even though the state Legislature recently approved a statewide funeral restriction law. That legislation has yet to be signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Day town Supervisor Mary Anne Johnson, chairwoman of the county Veterans Committee, said the county needed to act on its proposal, regardless of what the state may do. She said adopting the local law was a way of sending a message of support to service members and veterans, and opposition to groups like Westboro.
The proposed state law differs from the county law in the limits. It restricts protests to at least one hour before or after the funeral ceremony and imposes a 1,000-foot distance limitation.