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Virginia declines to back free-speech case

June 2, 2010 at 3:23 PM

NORFOLK, Va., June 2 (UPI) -- Virginia's attorney general is under fire for not joining a case involving anti-gay funeral protesters that's headed for the U.S. Supreme Court, observers say.

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has declined to enter a case arising out of a protest by anti-gay activists at a 2006 funeral for a Marine killed in Iraq, The (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot reported Wednesday.

Though the protesters' methods are "vile," a spokesman for Cuccinelli said, banning them could infringe on the free-speech rights of other protesters, from environmentalists to anti-abortion activists.

Virginia is one of two states, with Maine, that have not joined the case attracting bipartisan support on Capitol Hill, The Virginian-Pilot reported.

Members of a Topeka, Kan., church who believe deaths of American service personnel are divine punishment for America's policies toward gays and lesbians often protest at military funerals, the newspaper said.

The father of the Marine in the 2006 funeral sued the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church and won a multimillion-dollar judgment.

An appellate court overturned the verdict, saying the church's message, though inflammatory, is protected speech under the First Amendment.

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