Assemblyman Phil Ramos (D-Central Islip), Chair of the Assembly’s Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, announced both Assembly and Senate passage of legislation he co-sponsored that would further protect military funeral services from disruptive protesters. The legislation would establish a 300-foot buffer zone around funeral services beyond which demonstrators could not disturb mourners (A.7698) and empower local governments to require permits for any demonstrations taking place within 1,000 feet of the services (A.7697).
“These services honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to our great country – family members, neighbors and friends deserve the right to mourn their loved ones without feeling harassed, threatened or intimidated,” Ramos said “It is time to curb the despicable practice of conscientiously making a spectacle of military funerals to advance a radical, ideological-driven agenda.”
The first measure aims to expand on a 2008 law prohibiting purposeful disturbances within a 100-foot radius of religious services, funerals, burials and memorial services (Ch. 566 of 2008). Under the enhanced legislation, that area would increase from 100 feet to 300 feet, and violators would be guilty of a class A misdemeanor – for disruption or disturbance of a religious service, funeral, burial or memorial service.
The second piece of legislation would allow communities to require demonstrators to obtain permits from localities for any planned demonstrations within 1,000 feet of a wake, funeral, burial or memorial service. Civil penalties would be levied on protestors violating the permit requirement - terms of which would be left up to the individual communities. It would also direct the state to develop a similar permitting system for demonstrations taking place on state property. Those found guilty on state property would face civil fines of up to $500 upon a first violation, up to $1,000 for a second violation and up to $2,000 for a third violation.
“It is understood that disruptive demonstrators have right to free speech, however, it is dually important for these protesters to understand that the funerals they protest are the men and women who have fought to give them this right,” Ramos concluded.