FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) – Flanked by National Guardsmen and veterans of all ages, Gov. Ernie Fletcher signed a law Monday to force protesters to keep their distance from military funerals.

The measure is aimed at members of Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., who have demonstrating around the country at funerals for soldiers killed in Iraq. Carrying signs with slogans such as “God Hates Fags,” the protesters claim that U.S. soldiers are dying because God is punishing America for tolerating homosexuality.

Kentucky is one of five states that have enacted such laws, and a number of others are considering legislation. The church has said it will obey such laws though it considers them an infringement of its free-speech rights.

“It’s a hard thing to go to a man’s funeral and pay your respects when you have people out there shouting obscenities,” said Herman Griffin Jr., a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

The measure requires protesters to stay at least 300 feet from funerals or memorial services. Violators can get up to a year in jail.

The Westboro group has protested in several places in Kentucky, including Fort Campbell, home of the 101st Airborne Division. The protesters typically carry signs that read “Thank God for IEDs,” a reference to the improvised explosive devices, or roadside bombs, used by insurgents in Iraq.

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