SPRINGFIELD, Ill. Loud noises, shouting, hateful language on signs and other protests are no longer allowed at funerals in Illinois.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich yesterday signed into law the "Let Them Rest in Peace Act," which bars protests within 200 feet of funerals shortly before, during and after services.
"It is unfathomable to me that anyone would stage a protest at a funeral," Blagojevich said in a statement.
The measure is aimed at anti-gay protesters from Westboro Baptist Church, a Topeka, Kan., group that has picketed military funerals around the country. The protesters claim the soldiers died because they fought for a country that condones homosexuality.
More than two dozen states are considering similar laws or have passed them already.
The idea for a funeral-protest law in Illinois originally stalled in the state Senate amid concerns about unlawfully restricting labor groups' rights to picket. Those concerns were resolved by allowing such non-confrontational pickets.
Supporters say the new law will help ensure families are able to bury their dead with respect and dignity.
"No grieving military family should be subjected to vile epithets and disruptive protests at the funeral service of their loved one who has made the ultimate sacrifice for our country," said Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, a key supporter of the measure.
First-time violators of the protest ban face up to 30 days in jail and a small fine, while repeat offenders could be locked up for up to three years and fined up to $25,000.