Funeral Protest Limits Take Step

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The state House on Tuesday passed legislation that would restrict protests at funerals.

The legislation is designed to derail protests by a group that has appeared at military funerals in several states across the nation, including three in Michigan in the past several weeks. Members of Westboro Baptist Church from Topeka, Kan., say soldiers are being struck down by God for defending a nation that tolerates homosexuality.

The bills would ban demonstrations within 500 feet of a funeral. A violation would be punishable by up to two years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

The main bill in the package passed the House by a 102-1 vote. The legislation now goes to the Senate.

Lawmakers in 29 other states have introduced similar legislation this year. At least eight states had enacted the bills into law as of last week, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

At the federal level, U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, has introduced a similar bill.

Westboro Baptist has said the church will obey laws that have been passed to limit where and when funeral demonstrations take place. The group canceled plans to protest earlier this year in Oklahoma, Indiana, Missouri and Wisconsin, all states that have passed funeral protest laws.

At recent funerals in several states including Michigan, the Westboro protesters have been met by hundreds of military supporters.

Members of the Patriot Guard Riders carry U.S. flags and show support for slain soldiers' family members.