On June 28, 2012, the Supreme Court struck down a provision of the Stolen Valor Act of 2005 that made it a federal misdemeanor to lie about being the recipient of a military award for valor.
Veterans’ groups mostly condemned the decision. Some in Congress said they would introduce new legislation to penalize fakers who pretend to have earned decorations like the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for heroism.
One reporter wrote that veterans were “seething.” Veterans of Foreign Wars Commander-in-Chief Richard L. Denoyer said in a press release, “Despite the ruling, the VFW will continue to challenge far-fetched stories, and to publicize these false heroes to the broadest extent possible as a deterrent to others.”
Xavier Alvarez, was one of the first people prosecuted for violating the Stolen Valor Act. Alvarez falsely claimed to have been both a Marine and a Medal of Honor recipient. He never served in the armed forces.
The two federal appeals courts that have considered the issue have come to different conclusions. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco struck down the law in Alvarez’s case. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver upheld the law in the case of another false claim of military valor.
Some justices said they worried that upholding the Stolen Valor Act could lead to other limits on speech.