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MD, VA Yet To Sign On In 'Friend Of The Court' Brief In Case Involving Funeral

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By Kavitha Cardoza

Seventeen states are showing their support for the family of a Marine killed in Iraq, whose funeral was picketed by a controversial church group. The case will soon come before the Supreme Court, and the family is hoping to receive support from Maryland and Virginia.

When Lance Corporal Matthew Synder was buried in Carroll County, Maryland, his funeral was picketed by members of the Westboro Baptist Church. They held signs saying "Thank God for dead soldiers" and "God hates you."

Church members believe God is killing soldiers to punish the United States for accepting homosexuality. Synder's family sued for emotional distress and invasion of privacy.

But the most recent ruling from the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals sided with the church, citing free speech rights, however disturbing the message.

Sean Summers, attorney for the Snyder family, says all states have been asked to sign on to an amicus or "friend of the court" brief. Seventeen have so far, including Kansas, where the church is based.

But not Maryland, where the Synder family lives, or Virginia.

"Virginia has a very large military population and we've received hundreds if not thousands of letters from Virginia so they would be extremely disappointed if the state did not join," says Summers.

Summers says the papers have to be filed by Friday.

A spokesperson for Maryland's Attorney General says they received the brief last week and are still reviewing it. A spokesperson for Virginia's Attorney General did not return requests for comment.

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