The Supreme Court of the United States ruled on June 28, 2012 that the Stolen Valor Act of 2005, 18 U.S.C. §704, was unconstitutional because it infringed on freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment. The plurality opinion was authored by Justice Kennedy with Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor joining said opinion. Justices Breyer and Kagan concurred in the judgment with a separate opinion. Justices Alito, Scalia and Thomas dissented.
Little attention was given to this case initially because it was decided on the same day as the landmark healthcare case. Few outside of military watchers paid attention until the healthcare case had been discussed and picked apart. Now with elections looming, lawmakers are anxious to re-visit an issue that has wide bipartisan appeal.
Justices Kennedy and Breyer left the door open for new legislation that would correct the deficiencies of the original act that passed Congress with a unanimous vote. Last year, Senator Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and Representative Joe Heck (R-Nev.) anticipated the Court’s ruling and introduced the Stolen Valor Act of 2011 (H.R. 1775; S.1728) including the language “with intent to obtain anything of value.” Other lawmakers have joined the fray including the sponsor of the original act, Senator Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), who would like to revise the original act to meet constitutional muster. Senator Jim Webb (D-Va.) introduced the Military Service Integrity Act of 2012 on July 11, 2012 with the language “with the intent of securing a tangible benefit or personal gain” directly in response to comments of the Justices.
Fraud, perjury, libel, incitement to violence and treason remain the only speech that can be constitutionally criminalized. Lying about military honors with intent to get something of value is likely to soon join that list.
~Mary Susan Lucas~