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Florida makes funeral protesting a crime

5:51 PM, Apr 19, 2013   |    comments
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida is making it a crime to protest within 500 feet of a funeral.

The Florida Legislature has passed and Gov. Rick Scott has signed the so-called Funeral Buffer bill. It allows judges to sentence offenders to prison for up to one year.

The new law will apply to all funerals, but it was prompted by protests at military funerals around the country.

It bans protests within one hour before a funeral service and one hour afterward.

Bill sponsor Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, said protesters will still be able to express their opinion outside those time frames and beyond the 500-foot buffer, but the law aims to protect grieving families.

"To provide a solemn moment for the families of a loved one to grieve and it provides an opportunity for folks to exercise their right to free speech but to do so in way that allows friends and family to say their goodbyes in peace. We've seen these types of protests occur all across the country and it is very disappointing that folks would use the moment of grief to make a political statement. So we wanted to a strong stand here in Florida and let everyone know that we were going to protect the time of burial and the time of grieving and the time for goodbye."

The law takes effect October 1.

First Coast News

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