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When is lying harmful? When it’s done on a date, Sotomayor says

One of the issues the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court had to grapple with Wednesday during oral arguments in the Stolen Valor Act case U.S. v. Alvarez was whether the act of lying harms someone.

The justices considered lying in various contexts outside the one at issue in the case, which involved a man who repeatedly said he was a decorated war veteran when he wasn’t.

But Justice Sonia Sotomayor considered the harm that might be inflicted by another type of fib.

When someone claims to have “an honor they didn’t receive, … outside of the emotional reaction, where’s the harm?” Sotomayor began.  “And I’m not minimizing it. I too take offense when people make these kinds of claims, but I take offense when someone I’m dating makes a claim that’s not true.”

The comment drew laughter from the crowd. Later in the argument, the justice returned to the theme.

“On a date,” the justice said, a lie could “induce a young woman to date someone who she thinks is more of a professional,” and that could also “harm the parents [and] the family.”

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