WASHINGTON—Senator Scott Brown made a new push on Tuesday to win passage for legislation that would make it illegal for people to misrepresent themselves as military heroes, two weeks after the Supreme Court struck down a similar law, enacted in 2005, that it said violated free speech protections.
Brown, a Bay State Republican and a member of the Army National Guard, predicted that his legislation, “the Stolen Valor Act of 2011,” would pass muster because it would focus on people who profit from their misrepresentations.
The justices on a 6-3 vote invalidated the 2005 law after it was challenged by a California man who was convicted in 2007 of claiming that he was awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest military award for valor. The man said the law violated his First Amendment rights.
The court agreed, saying that falsely bragging about such honors caused no material harm.
Acknowledging the court’s ruling on free speech grounds, Brown said lying about military honors “is just wrong.”
“I believe our key change – punishing those who lie to profit or benefit – protects First Amendment rights and, if passed, serves as a serious warning to those who think about abusing the honor and valor of our courageous uniformed men and women. It also serves as a serious punishment for those who would then commit the crime,” Brown said during a press conference held with Representative Joe Heck, a Republican from Nevada and a colonel in the US Army Reserve.
“It is wrong and cowardly for people to make fraudulent statements in order to receive distinctions that they have not earned. We need to ensure that no one can benefit from making false claims and steal the true valor of the deserving few,” Brown said.
Brown introduced his bill in November, shortly after becoming aware of the issue during a visit with the Middleboro Veterans Council. But so far, he has only had two cosponsors—Senators Dean Heller, a Republican from Nevada, and Jon Tester, a Democrat from Montana—and he sent letters on Tuesday to other Senate colleagues to gain support. The bill is currently awaiting consideration in the Judiciary Committee.
The legislation would punish those who violate the law with an unspecified fine and perhaps up to a year in prison.
Brown hopes his ties to the military will help him woo votes as he faces a tough reelection challenge from Democrat Elizabeth Warren.