Tags: Abortion | Choose Life | license plate | New York | court | reversed | DMV

Court Rules New York Can Ban 'Choose Life' License Plates

By    |   Tuesday, 26 May 2015 04:40 PM

Tag Has Been Considered a Distraction, Potential Source of Road Rage

Pro-adoption organizations should have the same speech rights as any other organization, said the attorney representing a group whose pro-life license plate has been denied for the past 13 or 14 years in New York.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday reversed a lower court ruling that had ordered the state allow an adoption advocacy group to put the words "Choose Life" on its plates under the state's specialty license plate program. The plates also say in larger letters, IM4IT, with a cartoon-like depiction of a boy and a girl.

By a 2-1 vote, the court said the commissioner of the state Department of Motor Vehicles had "broad discretion" to decide which plates to permit under the program, and did not violate the First Amendment free speech rights of the Children First Foundation in rejecting the "Choose Life" plates, Reuters reported.

The court interpreted the plates as "patently offensive" — meaning any "politically sensitive and emotionally charged issues," regardless of the viewpoint espoused, according to The Washington Post.

"The state doesn’t have the authority to target The Children First Foundation specialty plates for censorship based on its life-affirming viewpoint," said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. "The state has wrongly gotten away with speech discrimination against our client for more than 10 years."

According to Judge Rosemary Pooler, who wrote the majority opinion in The Children First Foundation v. Fiala, the content of custom plates was "private speech" and the plates themselves a "nonpublic forum."

Therefore the DMV's uniform policy of excluding controversial, politically sensitive messages from plates — which the agency said stemmed from highway safety concerns — was "reasonable and viewpoint neutral, which is all that the First Amendment requires."

A 2011 federal district court decision, which was reversed in the latest turn, ruled that the DMV must issue "Choose Life" plates. The lawsuit began in 2004, when the New York state DMV imposed a still-standing moratorium on new custom plate applications.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo broke that moratorium, however, when the New York Giants won the Super Bowl in 2012.

Twenty-nine states allow Choose Life license tags. Tedesco said the organization would review its legal options.

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The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday reversed a lower court ruling that had ordered the state to allow an adoption advocacy group to put the words "Choose Life" on its plates under the state's specialty license plate program.
Choose Life, license plate, New York, court, reversed, DMV, can ban, specialty, plate, program
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2015-40-26
Tuesday, 26 May 2015 04:40 PM
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