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Texas Group Sues to Allow Confederate Flag License Plates

"The 1st Amendment clearly protects controversial speech."

If you live in Texas and you want a license plate that says "One State Under God," you'll soon be able to get one. But if you want the other proposed license plate that has the Confederate flag on it, you won't. However, one group is now suing the Texas DMV to try and give residents the option of the latter.

The L.A. Times reports the Texas division of the group called Sons of Confederate Veterans, a 30,000-member group out of Tennessee, is now filing suit saying the state DMV infringed on the group's right to free speech by rejecting their plate.

"The 1st Amendment clearly protects controversial speech," the group said in a statement to the Times. It cited the DMV board's approval of a plate that "is offensive to Native Americans" because it honors the Buffalo Soldiers, the all-black cavalry that fought Native Americans in the 1800s.

"The board seeks to bar the Texas SCV from expressing their viewpoint while allowing all other groups to express their viewpoint. This type of restriction is exactly the type which the 1st Amendment is designed to erase," the statement said.

The Times reports that old DMV rules didn't allow politically-themed plate designs. But that law changed two years ago and since then "all 89 proposed specialty designs."

"Nine other states have approved Sons of Confederate Veterans' specialty plates, but Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina only did so after the group sued," the Times notes. "A similar suit is pending in Florida."

Their suit comes as the DMV just approved a plate with another message some might see as controversial.

The Austin American-Statesman says the DMV, by a 4-3 vote, "approved an application by a Nacogdoches ministry for a plate showing the crosses and the slogan."

"Private speech, protected by the First Amendment, should not be subjected to second-class treatment," said Jonathan Saenz, an attorney and director of legislative affairs for the Liberty Institute.

It's also important to note the Tea Party-backed Gadsen flag plates have also been approved in the state.

The Confederate flag plate has made its way into the presidential election cycle. Texas Gov. Rick Perry has said he would not support the measure, and TX Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee had blasted the Gov. earlier on the matter.

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