The Supreme Court ruled this morning that the First Amendment protects the rights of anti-gay fundamentalist church members who picket military funerals. The near-unanimous 8-to-1 vote came down in favor of Westboro Baptist Church, upholding an appeals ruling that threw out a $5 million judgment to Albert Snyder, the father of a Marine killed in Iraq whose funeral the church picketed. Although Snyder's son wasn't gay, the picketers claimed they were carrying God's message to condemn "sodomite enablers." Chief Justice Roberts wrote that the church's actions were "certainly hurtful and its contribution to public discourse may be negligible" but that government "cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker." Roberts added, "As a nation we have chosen a different course — to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate." As the lone voice of dissent, Justice Alito wrote, "Our profound national commitment to free and open debate is not a license for the vicious verbal assault that occurred in this case." Start readying your human buffer walls.
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