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Majority Office — Press Release


March 27, 2013

CONTACT: Dan Dawson, 850-487-5184

The Florida Senate passes Bill to protect grieving Military Families from Disrespectful Picketing

Tallahassee, FL– The Florida Senate today passed House Bill 15 (Senate Bill 118) which represents a commitment to honoring our fallen men and women in uniform. The Senate Bill sponsor, Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto (R-Ft. Myers) and House Bill Sponsors Representative Pat Rooney (R-Palm Beach Gardens) and Representative Dane Eagle (R-Cape Coral) sought to increase the safety measures afforded grieving military families during funeral services. “The loss of a family member or friend is an extremely difficult time for loved ones,” said Leader Benacquisto, “Unfortunately; across the country we have seen these solemn times repeatedly interrupted, often at funerals for our fallen heroes who have courageously served our country in the military.”

The bill strengthens current law making the disruption of a military funeral a 1st degree misdemeanor, by adding a 500 foot protest barrier and during or within an hour before or after the ceremony. The legislation recognizes the meaningful balance between First Amendment rights and a family's right to grieve in private, and only addresses the time, place, and manner of the protests, not the content of the protest. The United States 8th Appellate Court has previously upheld this language as Constitutional.

“We live in a country where freedom of speech, no matter how despicable that speech may be, is protected,” said Leader Benacquisto. “However, we should also respect the rights of families to grieve without the interference of those who have no other purpose but to cause emotional harm. These bills provide that needed protection and reverence for the families and friends of our fallen heroes.”

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