North Carolina Barred From Issuing ‘Choose Life’ License Plates
WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina (Reuters) - A federal judge has permanently blocked North Carolina from issuing an anti-abortion specialty license plate, ruling that offering plates with a “Choose Life” slogan without an alternative supporting abortion rights is unconstitutional.
The lack of a plate promoting reproductive freedom in the state constitutes “viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment,” Senior U.S. District Judge James C. Fox said on Friday.
The judge previously granted a preliminary injunction sought by the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, which had argued the state should not be allowed to distribute specialty plates offering only one point of view on the abortion debate.
“This is a great victory for the free speech rights of all North Carolinians, regardless of their point of view on reproductive freedom,” Chris Brook, legal director of the ACLU’s North Carolina Legal Foundation, said on Monday.
“The government cannot create an avenue of expression for one side of a contentious political issue while denying an equal opportunity to citizens with the opposite view,” he said.
The ACLU filed a lawsuit in September 2011 after state legislators approved the “Choose Life” plate but refused to authorize voluntary license plates with abortion rights slogans such as “Respect Choice.”