By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
When Amy Ripp hears people lament the difficulties of changing the world, she thinks of her son, Ryan.
Earlier this year, Ryan was watching Channel One News, a news channel produced for teens, at McNary High School when a story came up about protestors from Westboro Baptist Church picketing at the funeral of a U.S. soldier. Representatives of the church regularly take up post a the funerals of fallen soldiers espousing anti-gay messages.
“We had a big discussion about it in class. I felt like I needed to do something about it. Right after class, I called my mom and told her we needed to go talk to [former city councilor] Richard Walsh and see what we can do,” Ryan said.
The group’s activities hit home not only because Ryan is the grandson of two veterans, but because he plans on enlisting.
“If something like that happened to any member of my family it would be horrible first of all with just the pressure of them passing, but to have this group of people come and say all these horrible things right there right at the funeral site is not okay, not on any level,” he said.
Walsh told him to go home and research the subject and see what work had already been done in other states. Ryan decided to put a bill before state legislators creating a 300-foot buffer zone between picketers and funerals and, at Walsh’s guidance, sought out the help of Rep. Kim Thatcher.
“I was very impressed by the amount of thought and passion Ryan had put into this issue,” Thatcher said. “He really cares about how families who have lost loved ones were being impacted by demonstrations at funerals.”
Ryan attended work sessions to learn about the process of crafting a bill that mirrored a similar measure in Arizona, visited other members of the legislature to drum up bipartisan sponsors and support, and testified on its behalf at a committee hearing earlier this month.
He’s particularly proud of coining the term “emotional terrorism.”
“I understand that people have the right to say these things, but this is about time, place and manner. One side is promoting the desecration of these families and smearing them. It will affect them for the rest of their lives,” Ryan said.
Despite some early nervousness – his stomach flipped on him as he exited his ride to the Capital – he found renewed vigor in speaking after members of the American Civil Liberties Union who were there to oppose the bill.
“It was interesting to hear them talk about how they were not supporting the group, but their right to say what they say. It still made me mad,” Ryan said.
The bill is still navigating various committees in the legislature’s offices, but he’s confident it will pass once it comes up for a final vote. Regardless of the outcome, the process of getting the bill to this point was a life changing one.
“I used to to want to go into the military and become a lawyer, but after going through this, I would really like to be a senator one day,” he said.