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Wednesday
Jan122011

Arizona Lawmakers Stop Westboro Protestors

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(TUCSON, Ariz.) -- Arizona lawmakers successfully curbed members of the Westboro Baptist church from picketing the funeral of the Tucson massacre's youngest victim, Christina-Taylor Green.

On Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Jan Brewer signed a new law that requires protesters to remain 300 feet from a funeral site. The law, which took effect immediately after it was signed, took only 90 minutes to pass in Arizona's legislature. Triggered by Westboro's plans to picket the funeral of nine-year-old Christina-Taylor on Thursday, the law passed by a unanimous vote.

The law assures that "the victims of Saturday's tragic shooting in Tucson will be laid to rest in peace with the full dignity and respect that they deserve," Brewer said in a statement. She praised lawmakers for "a remarkable spirit of unity and togetherness."

Westboro Baptist Church, based in Topeka, Kan., is the offshoot group of fundamentalist pastor Fred Phelps. It frequently pickets soldiers' funerals, political rallies and gay rights gatherings. Church members have long said they're exercising their First Amendment rights.

The group still plans to picket Friday's funeral of U.S. District Judge John Roll, and at the intersection where Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others were shot. Six people died when a gunman attempting to assassinate Giffords went on a shooting rampage at political gathering outside a Tucson grocery store.

Arizona State Rep. Kyrsten Sinema drafted the legislation that requires the Westboro protestors to stay 300 feet away from a funeral from an hour before it starts until an hour after it ends, ABC Affiliate KNXV reported Tuesday. "I'm a strong advocate of the First Amendment, and the bottom line is this, Fred Phelps and his group of people can still spew their hate if they want. They just don't get to do it close to the families that are grieving. They have to be farther away," Sinema told KNXV.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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