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House Passes Bill to Replace Stolen Valor Act

Sept. 13 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. House passed a bill that would make it a crime to seek to gain by lying about receiving military honors.

The measure, which passed with bipartisan support, 410-3, is intended to replace the Stolen Valor Act of 2005 that the Supreme Court struck down this year on free-speech grounds, ruling that people can’t be prosecuted for lying about receiving a military medal.

Nevada Republican Joe Heck, the bill’s sponsor, said last month that the measure would be constitutional because it narrows the scope by focusing on the fraud aspect. Violators would be subject to a fine, imprisonment for as long as a year, or both, according to the bill.

“This House has the opportunity to once again show our service members and veterans that we value the magnitude of their sacrifice, while at the same time protecting the constitutional rights that they fought so hard to protect,” Heck said during floor debate earlier this week.

The bill would ensure “that the Medal of Honor, the Purple Heart and other military awards will be shielded from fraud,” Arkansas Republican Tim Griffin said in an Aug. 1 statement.

Supporters of the measure include the Association of the United States Navy, Association of the United States Army, the American Legion and FRA, a group that advocates for current and former members of the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.

ACLU Opposition

The American Civil Liberties Union, which called the Supreme Court decision on the Stolen Valor Act a victory for free speech, opposes the bill. “We continue to have concerns, but the bill’s a marked improvement,” Gabe Rottman, legislative counsel at the ACLU’s Washington office, said in a Sept. 7 interview. “We would prefer Congress not take action.”

While the White House hasn’t taken a position on the legislation, the Obama administration defended the broader 2005 Stolen Valor Act before the Supreme Court.

The bill is H.R. 1775.

For more information, see the BGOV Bill Summary.

To contact the reporter on this story: Timothy R. Homan in Washington at thoman1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Katherine Rizzo at krizzo5@bloomberg.net

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