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Kansas AG seeks ruling on constitutionality of funeral picketing law

[JURIST] Kansas Attorney General Paul Morrison [official profile] filed a lawsuit [press release] Thursday to test the constitutionality of a new Kansas law restricting protests at military funerals [JURIST report]. The law, signed by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius last month, will not take effect until it is upheld as constitutional by the Kansas Supreme Court or a federal court. Morrison's lawsuit, filed in consultation with the Kansas legislature, is necessary because the Kansas Supreme Court does not issue advisory opinions. Morrison also requested an expedited hearing, hoping to obtain a court ruling by July 1.

The law was passed in response to picketing at military funerals by members of the Westboro Baptist Church [WARNING: readers may find material at this church website offensive; Wikipedia backgrounder], who claim that US soldiers have been killed because America tolerates homosexuals. The law will "prohibit persons from engaging in picketing or a directed protest within 150 yards of any entrance" where a funeral is held or "conducted within one hour prior to, during the funeral, or within two hours following the funereal." The law will also allow defamation lawsuits "by the estate on behalf of the person or any living relative of the deceased person" against protesters. More than 30 states have passed similar laws in response to the group, and a federal law [JURIST report] restricting protests at Arlington National Cemetery and other federal cemeteries has also been passed. AP has more.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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