Governor Jan Brewer signed into law a bill that was expedited through the House and Senate to prevent members of a fundamentalist church from disrupting the funerals of victims from the January 8 shooting spree in Tucson.
Brewer called the measure "a truly bipartisan effort to assure that grieving families and friends will be free from harassment and intimidation at the funerals of their loved ones."
The law makes it a crime (Class 1 misdemeanor) to picket or protest within 300 feet of any location where a funeral or burial service is taking place. It also takes effect immediately since it was passed with an emergency clause.
Lawmakers jumped into action after learning that members of the Westboro Baptist Church, a fundamentalist church from Topeka, Kansas, planned to protest the funeral of the 9-year-old girl murdered during Saturday's shooting rampage in Tucson.
Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was critically wounded in that attack after the suspect, Jared Loughner, allegedly shot at her and others in the crowd. People had gathered for a meet-and-greet with the Congresswoman. Six died and 19 others were injured that morning.
Westboro Baptist Church leaders told New Times they also plan to protest the funeral of Federal Judge John Roll and picket the very corner at which the massacre took place.
"Such despicable acts of emotional terrorism will not be tolerated in the State of Arizona," Brewer said in a statement. "This legislation will assure 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 praised Arizona lawmaker for "coming together in a bipartisan manner" on the first full day of the legislative session."
"This represents a remarkable spirit of unity and togetherness following Saturday's tragedy," she said.
Shame that it takes such a horrific act of violence to create unity among state leaders.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.