For Immediate Release: March 6, 2007
Senator Jay Paul Gumm
Senate Votes to Strengthen Funeral Picketing Act
Members of the Oklahoma Senate unanimously voted
to strengthen the “Oklahoma Funeral Picketing Act”
originally passed last year.
That law was passed as a response to a group from a church in
Topeka, Kans. that travels the nation to protest at military
funerals. Under the 2006 law, picketing is illegal beginning
one hour before the funeral until one our after it, and the
picketers have to be at least 500 feet away from the ceremony
Senate Bill 756 by Senator
Jay Paul Gumm would extend the hours during which picketing
could not occur from the one hour to three both before and after
the ceremony. Also, the measure would double the distance from
the ceremony or cemetery that the demonstrations can occur.
“The law we passed last year was a strong statement that
our soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice and their families
must be respected,” said Gumm, a Democrat from Durant.
“Even so, the people I represent believe we must create
an even larger zone of respect around families in grief.”
Last year, one of Gumm’s constituents – Sgt. Clint
E. Williams, 24, of Kingston, Okla. – died on Sept. 14
of injuries suffered in Baghdad, Iraq when an improvised explosive
device detonated near his vehicle during combat operations.
The group picketed at Sergeant Williams’ service.
“The community and law enforcement did a great job protecting
the family, using the law we passed last year,” Gumm said.
“Now, we can and should do even more – creating
an even larger zone of respect and sending the message that
outsiders with a twisted political agenda will not harm families
already bearing a burden few of us can imagine.”
The lawmaker said he was confident his bill does not curtail
the right to free speech.
“That right is one of the principles for which our heroes
put their lives on the line,” Gumm said. “Still,
families have the free speech right to mourn in their own way
and without interference from people seeking to use a personal
tragedy for a political platform.”
The bill passed the Senate unanimously. The measure next will
be considered by the House of Representatives where Rep. John
W. Carey, also a Democrat from Durant, is its sponsor.
For more information contact:
Senator Gumm's Office - (405) 521-5586