This is the second of three weeks devoted to considering bills and resolutions on the Senate floor. We are wading through bills that originated in the Senate, while our colleagues in the House of Representatives are considering those measures that originated in that body.
While fewer bills were approved by committees than in past years, still hundreds of measures are being explained and debated. Just moments before I write this week’s column, the Senate passed a bill that was requested by the people I represent.
We in southern Oklahoma share a solemn commitment to honor the memory of our fallen heroes who sacrifice their lives so that we my live free. As we in southern Oklahoma know all too well, there are some woefully misguided individuals – sick people, really – who use the funerals of our fallen war dead as a platform for their twisted political agenda.
Last year, we in the Oklahoma Legislature passed one of the strongest laws in the nation to put a clamp on these individuals who dishonor the memories of Oklahoma’s and America’s heroes. Under that law, the picketing cannot occur from one hour before the funeral until one our after it, and the picketers have to be at least 500 feet away.
The law we passed last year is an extraordinarily strong statement against this abuse of our right to free speech. It was as far as we believed the courts would let us go to protect the families of our fallen heroes.
Now, it is time we “push the envelope.” Our heroes deserve to have their memories respected, and families have the inalienable right to mourn a loss none of us can even imagine.
Senate Bill 756, which passed just moments before this column is written, would extend the time before and after a funeral during which picketing is illegal from one hour to three hours. Also, the bill would make it illegal to picket a funeral within 1,000 feet of the ceremony during the forbidden hours.
Certainly, no one wants to curtail the right to free speech; it is one of the principles for which our heroes put their lives on the line. Still, families have the free speech right to mourn in their own way and without interference from people seeking to use a personal tragedy for a political platform.
The bill passed the Senate unanimously. I have high hopes our colleagues in the House of Representatives will speak as strongly and as quickly to protect the memories of our honored dead.