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Panel OKs Tougher Funeral Protest Penalties In NC

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(Photo credit NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

(Photo credit NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Criminal penalties for people who disrupt a funeral or memorial service would get tougher under a bill approved by a House judiciary committee.

The panel voted unanimously Wednesday on the measure that also would expand the scope of buffer zones designed to keep protesters away. The bill expands on a 2006 law that responded to members of an anti-gay church picketing military funerals nationwide.

Rep. Kelly Hastings of Cherryville says the new bill is also directed to the Kansas church’s activities.

Violating the proposed law would result in a higher grade misdemeanor and a felony on a second offense.

Sarah Preston with the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union says the proposed buffer zones are so large that passers-by could unknowingly break the law.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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