California Attorney Jerry Brown has joined a lawsuit brought by the family of a late Twentynine Palms Marine whose funeral was protested by anti-gay demonstrators, and Brown's move puts him on the same page as conservative commentator Bill O'Reilly, who has backed the family.
“Disrupting a private funeral with vicious personal attacks goes too far,” Brown stated. He filed a friend-of-the-court brief, along with 47 other state attorneys general, in the case that is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder was laid to rest in 2006, but not without protests from Fred W. Phelps, Sr. and his Westboro Baptist Church, which has used such funerals to take exception to America's tolerance of homosexuality. Protesters' signs included, “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.” The group has targeted about 200 military funerals, arguing that soldiers' deaths are punishment for America's gay sins.
The Marine's father, Albert Snyder, sued and won $10 million, but an appellate court ruled that Phelps and the church were protected by the First Amendment — they were exercising free speech. The ruling meant that Snyder was ordered to pay Phelps' legal costs. The case was taken to the Supreme Court.
Fox commentator Bill O'Reilly, normally light years away from Brown politically, has vowed to pay the Snyders' legal bill.
“Free speech is a cherished American right,” Brown said, “but disrupting a private funeral with vicious personal attacks on the grieving family goes too far.”