LANSING, Mich. Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed legislation yesterday restricting protests at funerals in Michigan.
The new law is designed to stop demonstrations by the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church, which has protested at funerals of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Topeka, Kan., church says God is killing the soldiers to punish the U.S. for tolerating homosexuality.
The protests have angered lawmakers across the nation, including in Michigan, where Westboro members have protested several times this year.
"We have sent a strong message that Michigan honors and respects those who have given their lives, and all who have fought for our freedom," said state Rep. Judy Emmons, a Republican from Sheridan and an initial sponsor of the legislation along with state Rep. John Gleason, a Democrat from Flushing.
The legislation bans any intentional disruption of funerals within 500 feet of the ceremony. Violating the statute would be a felony, punishable by up two years in prison and a $5,000 fine for the first offense and up to four years and $10,000 for a repeat offense.
More than two-dozen legislatures have introduced similar measures and several of those states have passed the legislation. Granholm had said she would sign the funeral-protest legislation as it worked its way through the Legislature.
"The governor has been appalled at the actions of protesters at the funerals of our fallen heroes," Granholm spokeswoman Liz Boyd said.