State Senator Mary Easley (D-Tulsa) wants to protect the privacy of mourning families from picketers and other public demonstrations seeking to disrupt funerals in order to bring attention to their causes.
Easley, who serves as vice-chair of the Senate Energy and Environment Committee, filed a measure that would make it illegal to picket prior to, during and following the commencement of a funeral. The House co-author is Rep. Wade Rousselot (D- Waggoner).
Senate Bill 1020, known as the “Oklahoma Funeral Picketing Act” would make it a misdemeanor to picket within 500 feet of a cemetery, mortuary or church within one hour prior to, during and two hours following the commencement of funerals.
“Funerals are a time for families to grieve and remember their loved ones and not a time to be disturbed by people who want to use the opportunity to exploit their own causes,” Easley said. “I think what these groups are doing is very wrong and grieving families should be spared from this shameless spectacle.”
If convicted, a person could be punished by a fine of not more than $500, by imprisonment in the county jail of not more than 30 days, or by both a fine and imprisonment.
Additionally, a district court could award damages, including punitive damages, attorney fees or other appropriate relief against the persons found guilty of the crime.
Ronnie Felts, manager of Floral Haven Funeral Home in Broken Arrow thinks Easley’s bill is needed.
He said a group from Topeka, Kansas recently came to Broken Arrow to protest the war in Iraq during the funeral services of two soldiers who were killed while serving in Iraq.
“I am for this particular bill,” Felts said. “We need to place some regulations on those groups. Things are starting to get out of hand. Things escalate every time a protest happens.”
Easley said she wants this bill to serve notice that picketing during a funeral process won’t be tolerated.
“I want these groups to know that there is a proper
time and place for staging a protest, but during a funeral isn’t
one of them,” Easley said. “I want to ensure that families
have the privacy and peace they deserve to mourn their loss and not be
hassled by these protesters.”