Assemblyman Michael Cusick (D-Staten Island) has announced that two of his bills, A.7697 and A.7698, have passed the Assembly. The package of bills relates to protecting mourning families at military funerals.
The first measure requires the development and implementation of a permit process for demonstrations at the funerals of veterans and their family members. The justification of this law comes from Snyder v. Phelps, the recent Supreme Court case that highlighted the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church. Although the Court ruled in favor of free speech, it also said that the state had a compelling interest to protect mourners.
The second statute would amend the penal law by extending the buffer zone around a funeral service. The creation of a buffer-zone was specifically mentioned by Chief Justice John Roberts in Snyder v. Phelps.
Cusick was the driving force behind the initial 2008 New York State law that protected the rights of mourners at a military funeral. The new bills undoubtedly strengthen the existing law.
Assemblyman Cusick understands the balancing act between constitutionally-protected free speech and common decency. “The Court ruled in favor of free speech. It is a sacred right in the United States,” said Cusick. “However, the Court also stated that we, as a state, may take certain measures to protect the rights of mourners. That is exactly what we are doing. Men and women that have died in the service of our country deserve, at the very least, to be laid to rest in peace.”
The bills will now head for a vote in the Senate.