(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) today joined a bipartisan group of Senate colleagues to announce the introduction of a bill to protect military funerals from disruption by outside groups. The Sanctity of Eternal Rest for Veterans, or “SERVE” Act (S.815), would amend existing federal laws to help prevent disruptions at military funerals, while maintaining protestors’ First Amendment rights.
The legislation, led by U.S. Senator Olympia J. Snowe (R-ME), defines the time and place for protests at funerals, and provides clear remedies and increased penalties when conduct at military funeral services is not protected by the First Amendment. Joining Shaheen and Snowe in introducing the measure are U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD), Dan Coats (R-IN), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), John Hoeven (R-ND), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Harry Reid (D-NV), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), and Marco Rubio (R-FL).
“For the brave men and women in uniform who make the ultimate sacrifice for our country, and for their families, we owe nothing less than the utmost respect,” said Shaheen. “The honor and dignity of a military funeral is part of that respect. The SERVE Act establishes reasonable restrictions on protests at military funerals, while honoring Americans’ right to free speech at the same time.”
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.
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