A federal judge has sided with the ACLU against the state of North Carolina and blocked the state from offering residents “choose life” license plates without providing plates with the opposing view.
In his decision on Friday, U.S. District Court Judge James Fox, who last year issued an order temporarily blocking the state from producing the “choose life” plates, found the plates to be unconstitutional in the absence of other license plates that promoted a pro-choice position.
A spokeswoman for the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office would not say on Monday whether the decision would be appealed, according to the Associated Press.
The pro-life plates were included in House Bill 289, which passed the North Carolina General Assembly in 2011. At the time, six separate amendments to the bill were proposed with language promoting the pro-choice movement, such as “Respect Choice” and “Trust Women. Respect Choice.” All six pro-choice suggestions were rejected by the Republican-led legislature.
State Rep. Mitch Gillespie, a Republican who sponsored the bill, has already announced his intention to urge the attorney general to appeal the decision. Any appeal would go before the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which in 2004 ruled against a similar license plate law in South Carolina.
“This is a great victory for the free speech rights of all North Carolinians, regardless of their point of view on reproductive freedom,” said Chris Brook, legal director of the ACLU's North Carolina Legal Foundation, in an interview with MyFox8
“The problem here is the lack of balance,” said Brook. “It's a First Amendment issue. If you're going to have this government avenue for private speech, you need to allow speech on both sides of the political debate to occur.”
Similar plates are available in 29 states, according to Choose Life Inc., a Florida-based pro-life nonprofit that initiated and promotes their use. Proceeds from the plates are used by the nonprofit to fund pro-life pregnancy centers and other efforts to assist woman who are considering adoption with their pre-natal care.
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