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Thursday, May 11, 2006

LEGISLATION TO PROTECT MILITARY FUNERALS TO PASS U.S. HOUSE..........

Washington, D.C. - The U.S. House of Representatives debated and is expected to pass bipartisan legislation today to ensure that families of service personnel who have died serving our nation can hold dignified funerals for their loved ones.

Congressman Silvestre Reyes, a Democrat from El Paso, Texas, a member of the House Armed Services Committee and the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, served as the lead Democratic co-sponsor of the bill, known as the Respect for America's Fallen Heroes Act.

Organized protests have recently taken place throughout the United States at funerals of soldiers killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. Some protestors have held signs that read "Thank God for IEDs" and "Thank God for Dead Soldiers." The Respect for America's Fallen Heroes Act would restrict these protests.

Reyes led the debate on the Democratic side of the aisle on the floor of the House of Representatives today. The bill enjoyed strong bipartisan support led by Congressman Mike Rogers (R-MI), and all members of the Democratic leadership signed onto the bill.

"In El Paso, our community has mourned the loss of 20 servicemembers who have made the ultimate sacrifice in our current missions in Iraq and Afghanastan," said Reyes. "As a Vietnam combat veteran, and member of the House Veterans Affairs and House Armed Services Committees, I knew I had to do my part to ensure our nation's heroes are given the burial they deserve."

The Respect for America's Fallen Heroes Act would:

* Prohibit all demonstrations during and 60 minutes prior to and after funerals taking place at Department of Veterans Affairs national cemeteries or the Department of the Army's Arlington National Cemetery (the only areas over which the federal government maintains jurisdiction);

* Impose a 500-foot restriction on demonstrations near national cemeteries and Arlington National Cemetery during the funeral and for a brief period before and after the funeral to allow mourners to enter and leave the cemetery grounds in peace;

* Allow for a civil infraction for violations, including monetary fines and/or jail time of six months to a year, as consistent with authority granted to the Secretary of Veterans to maintain order in National Cemeteries under current regulations; and

* Express the sense of Congress that all states should enact similar restrictions for state and private cemeteries, as well as funeral homes.

"This legislation is narrowly drafted to allow the families and friends of our fallen heroes to lay their loved one to rest in peace and dignity, while protecting our freedom of speech," said Reyes. "By restricting where these protests could take place, this legislation will allow families to mourn in peace, while operating within the parameters of the Bill of Rights."

This was a media release from
Congressman Silvestre Reyes (D-TX)
May 10, 2006

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