Search Blog Posts

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Federal Court Puts an End to North Carolina’s Anti-Abortion License Plates

It's unclear under what Article of our constitution grants the federal government the authority to  rule on this state matter. As automobile and all road vehicles are registered by individual states' reserved rights, it only follows that those licensing issuances are reserved to the states.

Me thinks the ACLU should ask the fedgov how itself honors the 1st and 14th Amendments, yes? 

Nullification by North Carolina lawmakers called for in this instance.

The ACLU and The Right to Life
Federal Court Puts an End to North Carolina’s Anti-Abortion License Plates

Tuesday, February 18, 2014
A federal appeals court has squashed North Carolina’s controversial license-plate law that allowed only anti-abortion messages.

The 2011 legislation permitted residents to obtain license plates that read: “Choose Life.”

But the same law denied pro-choice advocates the opportunity to have competing slogans on their license plates, like “Respect Women” or “Respect Choice.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit on behalf of four residents to stop the legislation from going into effect, arguing it violated their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

U.S. District Judge James Fox sided with the ACLU and granted permanent injunction against the law.
The state petitioned the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, where a three-judge panel ruled unanimously that Fox was correct in striking down the statute.

Judge James Wynn wrote (pdf) for the circuit court that the legislature’s action constituted “blatant viewpoint discrimination squarely at odds with the First Amendment.”

He also noted that the state never denied that it was engaging in discrimination by allowing only “Choose Life” plates.

“Instead, North Carolina contends that it was free to discriminate based on viewpoint because the license plate speech at issue was solely its own,” Wynn wrote. “And under the government speech doctrine, when the government speaks for itself, it can say what it wishes. Plaintiffs disagree, arguing that the license plate speech at issue implicates private speech and all its attendant First Amendment protections, including the prohibition on viewpoint discrimination.”

The decision cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United (pdf) ruling, which affirmed that the First Amendment prohibits the government from abridging freedom of speech.

“Chief amongst the evils the First Amendment prohibits are government ‘restrictions distinguishing among different speakers, allowing speech by some but not others,’” Wynn wrote. “In this case, North Carolina seeks to do just that: privilege speech on one side of the hotly debated issue—reproductive choice—while silencing opposing voices.”

South Carolina adopted a similar anti-abortion license-plate law in 2004 that also was thrown out by the Fourth Circuit.

-Noel Brinkerhoff
To Learn More:

Anti-Abortion License Plates in N.C. Tossed (by Dan McCue, Courthouse News Service)

American Civil Liberties Union v. Anthony Tata (Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals) (pdf)

Judge Rules North Carolina License Plates Unconstitutional (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)