Utica, NY (WIBX) - A proposal to protect grieving military families from protests and harassment at funeral services, unanimously passed the New York State Senate.

Senator Joseph Griffo, who drafted the legislation, says its aim is to make it a crime to interfere with funeral services. He said, "It will establish a distance marker of 500 feet and if they violate the distance marker, on the first offense be convicted of a Class A Felony, on second offense a Class E Misdemeanor. It provides the same coverage and protection that we give now to reproductive service clinics and religious assemblies."

He says the bill will prevent extremist hate groups from using the shield of the First Amendment protection to cause grieving families further distress. The legislation comes on the heels of a recent Supreme Court ruling that said government can not prevent protesters from marching or showing signs at military funerals, however, the judges did rule that government could set a distance of 500 feet between grieving families and protesters.
Recently, the high court ruled that an anti-gay group has the right to protest at servicemen funerals, and it also upheld a lower-court ruling to dismiss a multi-million-dollar judgement that a father of a fallen Marine was awarded, after he sued the pastor of Westboro Baptist Church for protesting his son's funeral.