ANNAPOLIS (AP) - The name or image of a deceased member of the Armed Forces couldn’t be used in some instances without relatives’ permission under a bill pending in the Maryland legislature.
The bill would make it illegal to use a deceased serviceman’s or woman’s name or photograph on commercial products such as antiwar T-shirts without permission.
At an emotional hearing on one of the bills yesterday, members of a House committee heard from dead soldiers’ parents about instances in which they thought their children’s names were exploited.
“He wouldn’t have wanted his name on anything,” said Michael Watts of Bel Air, whose son, Lance Cpl. Patrick Adle, was killed in Iraq in 2004. Mr. Watts saw the fallen Marine’s name on an antiwar bracelet.
Mr. Watts and his wife also lost control of a scholarship committee that awarded scholarships in their son’s name. The couple sued to prevent the use of Cpl. Adle’s name but lost.
“The courts are basically telling us, as parents, that you have no control over the use of your son’s name,” Mr. Watts said.
“I ask you to think about your children and what you would do if this happened to you.”
If bills pending in the House and Senate are approved, Maryland would become at least the sixth state to bar use of a dead serviceman’s name without permission.
The proposal has raised objections from free-speech proponents who argue that the measure would trample political speech. In Arizona, which has a similar law, the measure is on hold pending a legal review.
“Our soldiers deserve the highest honor,” said Cindy Boersma, legislative director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland. “That honor is diminished if it comes at the expense of the Constitution.”
A separate bill is awaiting a committee vote in the Senate.