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Oklahoma State Senate
Senator Jay Paul Gumm
Senate District 6
Atoka, Bryan, Coal, Johnston and Marshall Counties

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For Immediate Release: March 6, 2007

Senator Jay Paul Gumm
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 or cemetery.

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

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