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Legislature Passes Stolen Valor Law

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Thursday, April 16, the Alabama Legislature passed HB2, the Stolen Valor bill, sponsored by State Representative Steve Clouse (R-Ozark).

The Alabama House of Representatives passed the bill early in the session.  On Thursday it also passed the Senate with some changes.  The House then voted 100 to 0 to concur with the bill as it passed the Senate.< Rep. Clouse said that HB2 deals with misrepresentation of military awards and medals. The Senate strengthened the bill, changing it from a misdemeanor to a felony and added language keeping with National Veterans groups. Rep. John Rogers (D-Birmingham) asked, "what about a guy who goes to these Army/Navy surplus stores and buys a jacket with the ribbons already on it?"  Rogers said that he did not want to see a kid unwittingly getting a criminal record. Rep. Clouse said that the law is limited to "knowingly" misrepresenting a service record for a material gain. Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard recognized State Representative John Knight (D-Montgomery) as a Silver Star winner.  Rep. Knight said that he supports the bill, “I don’t think anybody should claim anything they did not earn.” HB2 reads, “This bill would prohibit a person from fraudulently holding himself or herself out to be a recipient of certain decorations or medals authorized by the US Congress for the US Armed Forces or awarded to members of the US Armed Forces, with intent to defraud.” For purposes of this section, the term "decoration or medal" means any of the following decorations or medals authorized by the US Congress for the US Armed Forces, or any of the following service medals or badges awarded to members of the US Armed Forces described in any of the following sections of the US Code or successor sections: Fraudulently claiming earning a: Congressional Medal of Honor, a Distinguished Service Cross, a Navy Cross, an Air Force Cross, a Silver Star, a Purple Heart, a Combat Infantryman's Badge, Combat Action Badge, Combat Medical Badge, Combat Action Ribbon, or Combat Action Medal for anticipated benefit such as to land a job will now be a crime under Alabama Law. In June 3, 2013, President Obama signed into law the latest version of the Stolen Valor Act, which makes it a federal crime for people to pass themselves off as war heroes by wearing medals they didn't rightfully earn. The legislation passed both houses of Congress with overwhelming majorities. An earlier version, passed in 2005, was struck down in June 2012, when the Supreme Court ruled that lying about military heroics was constitutionally protected speech unless there was intent to gain some benefit or something of value by fraud. The 2013 Federal bill introduced by US Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nevada) included a provision, making it illegal to make the claims with the intent to obtain money, property or other tangible benefits. John Stovall with the American Legion said at the time, “I think this was necessary because people were using it to receive the benefits of decorations of valor, and they were getting monetary benefit from it.  That's why we supported the amended version, not to infringe on anyone's First Amendment rights but to protect the reputation and meaning of the decorations." HB2 now goes to the Governor’s desk. Original reporting by’s Bryant Jordan contributed to this report.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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