Assemblymember Bronson: Bills Pass Assembly to Protect Military Funerals, Prevent Disturbances

Assemblymember Harry B. Bronson (D-Rochester/Chili/Riga/Rush/Wheatland) sponsored two measures that passed the Assembly that would further protect funeral services and their attendees from disruptive protestors. The legislation would establish a 300-foot buffer zone around funeral services beyond which demonstrators couldn’t 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).

The first measure would expand upon a 2008 law prohibiting purposeful disturbances within a 100-foot radius of religious services, funerals, burials and memorial services (Ch. 566 of 2008). The new legislation would increase that area to 300 feet, and any interference, disrupting or disturbing a religious service, funeral, burial or memorial service would result in a class A misdemeanor.

“While it is true that protestors have the right to freedom of speech, they shouldn’t have the right to carry on in a disturbing manner and interfere with the funeral service of a deceased veteran,” Bronson said. “These bills will give the loved ones of the deceased the necessary buffer from those trying to protest.”

Bronson’s second bill would authorize communities to require demonstrators to obtain permits from the locality for any demonstrations organized within 1,000 feet of a wake, funeral, burial or memorial service. The state would also be directed to develop a similar permitting system for any demonstrations held on state property. Anyone found in violation of a permit requirement would face civil penalties. The severity of these penalties would be determined by the individual communities, and violators 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.

“These bills send a clear message to all protestors that military funerals will not be a forum to convey objective messages,” Bronson said. “These services are not the proper stage for protestors. The deceased veterans, their family and other loved ones deserve a respectful time to mourn.”