A 'Get Well' balloon flies above flowers laying on the ground at the intersection of West Ina and North Oracle roads in remembrance of the victims of the shooting at the Safeway store a day after a gunman opened fire on a group of people …
TUCSON, AZ - Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has signed into law emergency legislation to head off picketing by a Topeka, Kan., church near the funeral service for a 9-year-old girl who was killed during Saturday's shooting in Tucson.
Unanimous votes by the House and Senate on Tuesday sent the bill to Brewer. It took effect immediately with her signature Tuesday night. The new law prohibits protests within 300 feet of a funeral or burial service.
The radical Westboro Baptist Church earlier announced plans to protest the funerals of the victims in the Tucson shooting.
Rep. Daniel Patterson said Tuesday that there is a lot of political disagreement that goes on at the Capitol but on this day he said both Republicans and Democrats were coming together do the right thing.
Patterson said he knew shooting victim Gabe Zimmerman well and said his friend would appreciate a bi-partisan vote to keep his funeral protected.
"We miss him very much," Patterson said. "We miss the people who have been killed. We cry for them and we hope something good can come out of this."
The Kansas church has caused outrage in the past when it protested military funerals in other states.
Arizona State Representative Kyrsten Sinema said when she heard of the plans, she got downright angry and decided to take action.
Sinema sponsored Senate Bill 1101 and got some help from fellow legislators.
"We patterned legislation after Ohio's law which is constitutional, it’s been upheld in court, and I got permission from the speaker and the senate president to wave the rules," Sinema said.
That bill was passed just before 3 p.m. Tuesday, and was signed by Governor Brewer Tuesday evening.
"The bill requires them to be at least 300 feet away from the funeral from an hour before the funeral starts to an hour after it ends and that way people can grieve and love in peace," Sinema said.
The legislation is said to be similar to what 40 other states have currently adopted.
The first funerals for victims are Thursday and Friday. Sinema said she hopes this will protect the families.
Sinema said, “I’m a strong advocate of the First Amendment and the bottom line is this, Fred Phelps and his group of people can still spew their hate if they want. They just don’t get to do it close to the families that are grieving. They have to be farther away.”
House Speaker Kirk Adams said it was an important moment for Arizona to do what is right.
“Protesting or picketing outside the funeral of an innocent victim is despicable. It's time to bring Arizona in line with the many other states that protect the sensitivities of victims against groups that use fear and hate to denigrate the lives of Americans.”
A Facebook page has been set up to help stop the protests.
Called "Stop the Hate," the page lists its mission as, "'We will create a wall of humanity to allow the families who've lost their love ones to hold their funerals in peace, held with dignity, and surrounded in love. Tucson unite!"
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