Nine US states have introduced laws to impose restrictions on protests at funerals of gay soldiers.
Over the last year, church groups such as the Westboro Baptist Church, in Kansas, have picketed funerals of gay soldiers waving signs with slogans such as “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.”
The group plan to appear at the funeral of army sergeant, Daniel Sesker, from Iowa, who was killed by a roadside bomb earlier this month near Tikrit. Their website asks, “Where in God’s name did he get the idea that it was noble to fight in a fag army for a fag nation that’s on the short path to eternal destruction?
“That’s right: his parents, his family, his ‘friends’, his state and his country; they are to blame for the fact that Sesker is now in a million pieces, the appropriate punishment for their filthy manner of life.”
The new law states that demonstrators must remain a certain distance from the funeral and limit their protest to an hour before and after the ceremony.
However, the Westboro Baptist Church, led by 76-year-old preacher Fred Phelps, and his family, say its constitutional rights are restricted by the law.
The church claims to have arranged 25,000 pickets since its formation in 1991, almost all of them anti-gay.
A similar law is being considered in 20 other states.