ACLU Challenges Funeral Protest Ban
CLEVELAND—Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio filed suit in Federal Court for the Northern District of Ohio challenging Ohio House Bill 484, which would restrict any forms of protest or picketing one hour before, during and after a funeral. The law would also create a “bubble” the width of two football fields around the funeral home, church, funeral procession and cemetery so that no protest could occur.
“This ban is far too broad,” said ACLU of Ohio Legal Director Jeffrey Gamso. “The time restraints, free speech ‘bubble’ and the fact that it will move with the funeral procession will effectively prohibit protesting for large amounts of time in many communities around Ohio.”
Gamso continued, “If a political group wanted to have a demonstration on Main Street and a funeral procession was driving by, they would not be permitted to continue, even if the protest has nothing to do with the funeral. That is clearly too strict and would severely limit free speech.”
The bill would also create mass amounts of confusion over when groups would be allowed to protest. In many communities, funerals occur several times a day and may prove difficult to work around. In addition, the routes of funeral processions could vary greatly and may be hard for protestors to predict or avoid.
“With all of these restrictions, it would be difficult for many groups to even be able to discern when they could protest,” concluded Gamso. “If allowed to go into effect, this law will wreak havoc on the free speech rights of many Ohioans.”