LA: Anti-Choice and Other Specialty Plates Blocked

After years of pendulum activity, a US District judge earlier this month halted further sales of all specialty license plates in Louisiana, ruling that the legislature’s allowance of “choose life” but not “choose choice” specialty license plates violated the First Amendment. Judge Stanwood R. Duval, Jr. stated, “If the state built a convention hall for speech and then only allowed people to speak with whom they agreed with their message, the states’ actions would be in contravention of the First Amendment… There is no significant difference in the case before the court,” according to the Associated Press. Duval blocked the sale of “choose life” plates in 2000; however, sales resumed after the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned his decision.

The present case, brought by Planned Parenthood and other concerned organizations, had been amended after the Fifth US Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to resubmit the case to Duval’s court if the plaintiffs modified their complaint to “challenge the state’s overall policy and practice of issuing specialty license plates,” according to Center for Reproductive Rights.

This latest ruling affects nearly all specialty plates, including current designs by the Girl Scouts, veterans, and Sons of the Confederacy. With a twenty-five dollar surcharge, the plates generate sizable revenue for various organizations; now groups like the Black Bear Conservation Committee are concerned about lost revenue. The state plans to appeal the case. Should the ruling stand, Louisiana may consider approving plate designs with set interest level threshold.

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Chattanooga Times Free Press 7/10/03, Associated Press 7/9/03, Associated Press 7/10/03, Times-Picayune Publishing Co 7/10/03

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