|President Obama signs Honring America's Veterans legislation. |
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
By Brody Levesque | WASHINGTON -- President Obama signed legislation known as the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 into law on Monday. In remarks delivered to those attending the signing ceremony in the Oval office, Mr. Obama said;
"There are two parts to the bill, though, that I especially want to highlight. First of all, this bill ends a decade-long struggle for those who serve at Camp Lejeune. Some of the veterans and their families who were based in Camp Lejeune in the years when the water was contaminated will now have access to extended medical care. And, sadly, this act alone will not bring back those we’ve lost, including Jane Ensminger, but it will honor their memory by making a real difference for those who are still suffering.
The second part of this bill that I want to highlight -- prohibit protesting within 300 feet of military funerals during the two hours before and two hours after a service. I supported this step as a senator. I am very pleased to be signing this bill into law. The graves of our veterans are hallowed ground. And obviously we all defend our Constitution and the First Amendment and free speech, but we also believe that when men and women die in the service of their country and are laid to rest, it should be done with the utmost honor and respect.
So I’m glad that Congress passed this bill and I hope that we can continue to do some more good bipartisan work in protecting our veterans."
The new law will have strong implications for the Westboro Baptist Church, the Kansas-based anti-gay fringe church which the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League both labeled a hate group.
The WBC first drew national attention during the 1998 funeral of slain openly gay Wyoming university student Matthew Shepard, when its members protested with neon signs depicting stick figures of males engaged in anal sex and other signs with messages that proclaimed "God Hates Fags" and "Fags = AIDS = Death."
In recent years, Westboro has drawn scrutiny for protests at the funerals of U. S. service members killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan which members of the fringe church claim is due to America's growing acceptance of the "fag lifestyle," quoting daughter of founder Fred Phelps, Shirley Phelps-Roper.
Under the new law, protests must be held at least 300 feet from military funerals and are prohibited two hours before or after a service. The law counters a 2011 Supreme Court ruling, which found that displays such as Westboro's were protected under the First Amendment.