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States File Brief over Military Funeral Protests

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By Kamika Dunlap on June 03, 2010 10:45 AM

Several states are backing Albert Snyder, who sued anti-gay protesters over their demonstration at the 2006 military funeral of his son, Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, a Marine killed in Iraq.

Forty-eight states and the District of Columbia have submitted a brief to the Supreme Court to show their support for Albert Synder, the Associated Press reports.

As a result, the Supreme Court has agreed to consider whether the protesters' anti-gay message is protected by the First Amendment.

In the brief, the states argued they have a compelling interest in protecting the sanctity of funerals.

The only states that declined to sign the brief were Virginia and Maine.

As previously discussed, the Synder family brought the first lawsuit against the church over the protests. They sued for damages for emotional distress and invasion of privacy.

Many of the protesters have been led by Pastor Fred Phelps. Together they travel the country, shouting at grieving family members at military funerals and carrying signs that read "Thank God for Dead Soldiers".

According to a legal brief it filed with the High Court, church members believe it is their duty to protest at military funerals and promote their religious message.

The Kansas-based church pickets military funerals to spread their belief that U.S. deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq are punishment for the nation's tolerance of homosexuality.

California Attorney General Brown joined other state attorneys general in signing a friend-of-the-court brief.

"Free speech is a cherished American right," Brown said in a statement the Los Angeles Times reports, "but disrupting a private funeral with vicious personal attacks on the grieving family goes too far."

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