By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes
Seeing protests at military funerals was too much to take for a Keizer teen.
Now Ryan Ripp’s idea is nearly law.
Senate Bill 1575 has gotten approval from both chambers of the Oregon Legislature and awaits Gov. John Kitzhaber’s signature. A representative from the governor’s office said he intends to sign.
It makes it a crime to fight, make threats or unreasonable noise or obstruct traffic within 200 feet of a funeral. The bill is in response to protests staged by Westboro Baptist Church, a small Kansas church whose members regularly carry anti-gay signs and messages to funerals of U.S. soldiers.
“I’m really happy that it’s finally a law, that Oregon’s finally protected,” Ripp said upon hearing the bill cleared the house with nearly unanimous consent.
In order to be charged with disorderly conduct, in this case a Class A misdemeanor – a maximum fine of $6,250 and up to a year in jail – the person must know a funeral is taking place. Normally disorderly conduct is a Class D misdemeanor.
Legislation with similar intent failed in 2011, in part because of a section some said could impede free speech.
Removing that was the difference maker for Rep. Jules Bailey, D–Portland, who opposed last session’s bill. He noted the changes in his remarks on the House floor Tuesday.
Rep. Jim Weidner said the legislation protects mourners from outside agitators.
Ripp, a McNary High School junior, was outraged after he learned about the issue watching Channel One News, a news show for teens aired at high schools across the country.
“It made me sick to see on TV what it was doing to people in other states,” he said.
Richard Walsh, a former Keizer city councilor, advised him to research similar laws in other states. Ripp attended work sessions to learn about the process and testified at a legislative committee when a similar bill was before the legislature in 2011. He also sought help from Rep. Kim Thatcher, R – Keizer.
Ripp, a grandson of two military veterans, plans to enlist, and is applying to all five U.S. military academies. And after this experience, he wants to go into politics.