A legal group, usually on the side of gay rights, is defending a church group which protests at military funerals claiming the deaths are punishment for US gay policy.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which often supports gay marriage and adoption cases, argues that the law in Kentucky which limits funeral protests inhibits the Westboro Baptist Church’s freedom of speech.

The lawsuit has been filed on behalf of Bart McQueary, Lili Lutgens, a lawyer for the ACLU said: “Mr. McQueary clearly has the right to express his message in a nondisruptive manner, even if others disagree with him.

Meanwhile a spokesman for Governor Ernie Fletcher, regularly against gay rights, said: “The public should respect their dignity in a very difficult time.

“That’s why this law was passed. It’s inconceivable why anyone would want to protest at a military funeral while family members are there.”

The Westboro Baptist church who run a website called GodHatesFags have protested at over 100 funerals of soldiers killed in the line of duty in Iraq. Their campaign, called “Thank God for Improvised Explosive Devices” involves protesters holding up signs and chanting slogans such as “God Hates Fags,” “America is Doomed” and “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” at the widows of the servicemen.

The Kentucky state law states that protests can only be within 300 feet of memorial services, wakes and burials. Those who break the law can be sentenced to a year in jail.