Governor Nixon says Missouri is right to attempt to limit protests at military funerals.
United States District Judge Fernando Gaitan has ruled laws approved by the legislature in 2006 violate free speech rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Lawmakers approved two laws in 2006. One prohibits protests near any military funeral from an hour before until an hour after the funeral. Another requires protestors to stay at least 300 feet from the ceremonies and processions.
Both were reactions against the protests staged by the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas. The renegade church makes it a practice to protest at military funerals, preaching that military deaths demonstrate God’s judgment on America for its tolerance of homosexuality.
Gaitan ruled that state officials failed to demonstrate significant government interest in restricting protests and failed to carefully draft the law to prevent the farm of interruptions of funeral services.
Nixon says the state will be watching closely as similar lawsuits work their way through the courts and evaluate whether changes can be made to Missouri law to address the judge’s concerns, if the courts ultimately throw out the law.