Maine Democrat and Virginia Republican Only Dissenting AGs in Westboro Free Speech Case
6:20 PM, Jun 3, 2010 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli has refused to file an amicus brief on behalf of the family of the Marine at whose funeral the Westboro Baptist Church protested--a brief that 48 other states' attorneys general have agreed to file. The Richmond Times-Dispatch has the story:
Maine attorney general Janet Mills, who has also chosen not to join the friend of the court brief, provided a statement arguing that the First Amendment "does not allow us to distinguish between polite speech and hateful or outrageous speech." The attorneys general from every other state and the District of Columbia have joined the brief.
The brief argues that most states have passed laws protecting the sanctity of funerals and restricting funeral picketing, and that these laws are constitutional for three reasons. First, funerals should be given the sort of privacy protections that the Supreme Court has ruled exist in a home. Second, funeral attendees should be considered a "captive audience" within the realm of the First Amendment and therefore cannot choose to ignore or get away from offending speech. Third, the brief argues that the Supreme Court and lower courts have recognized that "targeted picketing...is a particularly intrusive and harassing form of speech." The concurrent argument concerns existing state tort laws, which the brief says protect the "privacy and emotional health of grieving families."
A hearing date has not been announced, but the Supreme Court is supposed to hear the case during the 2010-2011 term.
Michael Warren, a Collegiate Network fellow, is an editorial assistant at THE WEEKLY STANDARD.
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