Westboro Baptist Church protesters will soon be severely limited in their ability to disrupt military funerals, after Congress passed a sweeping veterans bill this week that includes restrictions on such demonstrations.
According to "The Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012," which is now headed to President Barack Obama's desk, demonstrators will no longer be allowed to picket military funerals two hours before or after a service. The bill also requires protestors to be at least 300 feet away from grieving family members.
This aspect of the legislation was introduced by Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), who, at the urging of a teenage constituent, proposed new limitations on military funeral demonstrations as a response to a 2011 Supreme Court case that ruled such actions were protected under the First Amendment.
In the wake of that decision, many have turned to counter-protest efforts to block Westboro Baptist Church's disruptive and insensitive displays, which frequently suggest that U.S. soldiers have been killed as God's vengeance for gay tolerance.
Thousands turned out in Missouri last month, forming a "human wall" around a church where the service for a fallen soldier was being held.
Earlier in July, hundreds of Texas A&M students showed up in a similar effort, joining together to create a barrier between Westboro Baptist Church members and a military funeral.
And while not at a specific service, a group of demonstrators dressed as zombies gathered at a military base in Washington last month, far outnumbering and overshadowing followers of the far-right congregation.
The bill also contains a variety of measures meant to address veterans health, benefits, housing and education. Obama is expected to sign to the legislation later this month.
Below, a closer look at Texas A&M's "maroon wall" demonstration:
BEFORE YOU GO
How to vote
Vote-by-mail ballot request deadline: Varies by state
For the Nov 3 election: States are making it easier for citizens to vote absentee by mail this year due to the coronavirus. Each state has its own rules for mail-in absentee voting. Visit your state election office website to find out if you can vote by mail.Get more informationTrack ballot status
In-person early voting dates: Varies by state
Sometimes circumstances make it hard or impossible for you to vote on Election Day. But your state may let you vote during a designated early voting period. You don't need an excuse to vote early. Visit your state election office website to find out whether they offer early voting.My Election Office
General Election: Nov 3, 2020
Polling hours on Election Day: Varies by state/localityMy Polling Place