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President signs bill limiting military funeral protests

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August 06, 2012|By Chris Durden | KWCH 12 Eyewitness News
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

(WASHINGTON) — President Barack Obama signed a bill into law Monday that prohibits protests within 300 feet of military funerals two hours before and after services.

"The graves of our veterans are hallowed ground," said President Obama. "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."

Although not mentioning it by name, the law seeks to limit protests by Topeka's Westboro Baptist Church. In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the group is entitled to protest military funerals even when those protests cause pain to family members and others attending the funeral.

However, the court did not say there cannot be restrictions on those protests. That's where the Honoring America's Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 comes in.

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People who violate the rules face fines of up to $50,000 and up to two years in prison.

The restrictions are similar to those the Kansas Legislature approved in 2007.

Members of Westboro say this will not stop their protests. The group believes the deaths of soldiers and other acts of violce are God's way of punishing the United States for accepting homosexuality.

The law also provides healthcare to veterans and their families who were diagnosed with diseases caused by water contamination at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.  The water contamination happened from 1957 to 1987.

 Click Below to Watch Signing Ceremony

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