For North Carolina residents looking to tout pro-life values on their state-granted license plates, disappointment abounds. U.S. District Court Judge James C. Fox has ruled against plates that read "Choose Life" -- unless the state government also creates a similar design for individuals who support abortion rights.
Fox issued his controversial decision on Friday, according to WGHP-TV. The case against the pro-life message was brought by The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF), a group representing pro-choice individuals who want to see a similar plate embrace their views.
The judge made it clear that, in order for "Choose Life" to be issued, its oppositional counterpart would also have to be made available. Chris Brook, legal director for ACLU-NCLF, said that the decision is a free-speech victory for all state residents, regardless of the views they hold on abortion.
Photo Credit: Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship
"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," Brook said. "We are very pleased that the court agrees that such a one-sided scheme constituted viewpoint discrimination and violated the First Amendment."
The judge's opposition to the plates is nothing new. In Nov. 2011, he placed a temporary injunction on their production -- a restriction that is now permanent."The State’s offering of a Choose Life license plate in the absence of a pro-choice plate constitutes viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment," Fox said in his decision.
The plates were first issued last year when the state's General Assembly passed House Bill 289, which created the "Choose Life" design. The total cost for the plates was originally slated for $25, with $15 from this purchase going to the Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship, a group of pregnancy counseling centers.
The plates were initially scheduled for production once 300 people requested them, but the initial injunction prevented their creation. The state's attorneys are currently assessing whether to appeal the decision.