Joe Robach of Rochester and the New York State Senate gave final legislative approval last year to two measures that offer additional buffers and restrictions for protests or demonstrations seeking to disrupt military/ veteran funerals, burials or memorial services. The new law balances the constitutional right of free speech with the ability of families to respectfully mourn the individuals who gave their lives in service to our country.

This very important legislation protects our future Gold Star families by ensuring dignity, respect and honor for our fallen military veterans. Joe Robach believes that exercising free speech is an American right, but it is a tremendous misuse of that freedom to use the funerals of our veterans as a vehicle for protests that do nothing but add to the grief and sorrow of military families.  Grieving military families shouldn’t be the target of a political demonstration.

A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision recognized that persons who protest at funerals of military personnel have constitutional rights, but also that states have a compelling interest in protecting the family and friends of deceased military personnel while they are mourning at such events. This prompted the Senate to propose the Specialist Thomas J. Wilwerth Military Dignity Act. Specialist Wilwerth was an Iraq War Veteran who lost his life in combat in 2006.   Soon a companion bill was introduced which was designed to ensure that military families already reeling from grief are not faced with insults and protests, and both bills were passed by the Senate on March 14, 2011. The bills were amended and passed the Assembly on June 6, 2011.

S.3901A, supported by Joe Robach, requires the development and implementation of a permit process for demonstrations at veteran and veteran family member funerals, and authorizes the imposition of fines for failure to comply with the permit provisions.

S.5605, supported of Joe Robach, triples the buffer zone distance for protests around a religious service, funeral, burial or memorial service from 100 feet to 300 feet.

Both bills were signed by the Governor.  For more information, contact the office of Joe Robach.