In a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court has struck down the Stolen Valor law, passed in 2006, which made it illegal for someone to lie about receiving certain military decorations such as the Medal of Honor.
The case in question was about Xavier Alvarez, who was elected to the Three Valleys Municipal Water District Board in Pomona, California. At a 2007 meeting, Alvarez stated that he was a retired Marine who had been wounded many times, and also awarded the Medal of Honor.
While Alvarez pleaded guilty to violating the Stolen Valor law, he claimed that his speech was protected by the First Amendment. His lawyers claimed that the First Amendment protected “exaggerated anecdotes, barroom braggadocio, and cocktail party puffery".
Lawyers for the Obama administration argued that “military awards serve as public symbols of honor and prestige, conveying the nation’s gratitude for acts of valor and sacrifice; and they foster morale… and esprit de corps within the military. False claims to have received military awards undermine the system’s ability to fulfill these purposes” and “make the public skeptical of all claims to have received awards".
Many veterans groups, such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars, criticized the ruling.
The law is being reintroduced in Congress as a fraud statute, criminalizing anyone profiting from falsely claiming to being a veteran.