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Funeral Protest Ban Gains Preliminary Senate Approval

The Missouri Senate gave first round approval to a bill Monday that would ban protests at funerals. KSMU's Missy Shelton reports.

The bill would make it a misdemeanor to protest a funeral...The ban would apply from one hour before the funeral to one hour after the service.

Senator Charlie Shields is sponsoring the bill after constituents in his district were the target of Westboro Baptist Church, based in Topeka, Kansas.

Specialist Edward Myers was killed in Iraq this summer...At his funeral in St Joseph, Missouri, members of the Westboro Baptist Church protested, holding derogatory signs aimed at homosexuals.

Shields says Specialist's wife and young child had to witness the protest.

When Shields brought the proposed protest ban to the senate floor, he read the testimony of Specialist Myer's wife.

No one spoke against the bill during debate.

But Shields says some senators had asked him about the constitutionality of banning protests.

He says Kansas has a similar law...And he says other bans on protests exist.

The bill gained preliminary senate approval by a voice vote.

Senator Harry Kennedy says it's difficult to believe there's a need to pass such a ban.

The bill faces a final vote in the senate before it moves forward to the House.

Shields, who is the Majority Floor Leader in the Senate says he expects to bring the bill up for final approval today.

If lawmakers send the bill to the governor, it would become effective as soon as the governor signs it.