Cantwell Cosponsors Bipartisan Bill to Protect Military Funerals from Disruptions

Cantwell: This bill ‘protects free speech and protects the right to a respectful funeral service’ for our fallen heroes

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) announced her support of bipartisan legislation that would help prevent disruptions by outside groups at military funerals.

Introduced by Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), the Sanctity of Eternal Rest for Veterans Act, or “SERVE” Act (S.815), would amend existing federal laws to more accurately define the time and place for protests at military funerals, while protecting First Amendment rights. The bill would also provide clear remedies and increased penalties for offenders.

“The families of our fallen military men and women deserve the right to lay their loved ones to rest with dignity and honor,” Cantwell said. “This bipartisan legislation protects the right to free speech and protects the right to a respectful funeral service that allows loved ones to mourn our fallen heroes in peace.”

The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Snyder vs. Phelps involving the Snyder family and the Westboro Baptist Church underscored the need for more definitive language in federal law guiding when and where disruptions at military funerals can take place, while still respecting the ability of a family to lay a lost loved one to rest.

Specifically, the SERVE Act would increase the quiet time before and after military funeral services from 60 minutes to 120 minutes; increase from 150 feet to 300 feet the buffer around a military funeral service and increase from 300 feet to 500 feet the buffer around access routes to a funeral service area; and increase civil penalties on violators.

The military support groups and organizations supporting the SERVE Act include the Gold Star Wives of America, the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States, the Marine Corps League, the Military Officers Association of America, the Military Order of the Purple Heart, the Non Commissioned Officers Association, and Veterans of Foreign Wars.

For more information, including statements supporting the SERVE Act from the above-mentioned organizations, please see Senator Snowe’s press release.