By Jonquil Frankham
CHICAGO, November 10, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Judge David Coar’s 2007 ruling that required Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White to issue “Choose Life” license plates to vehicle owners has now been overturned by a federal appeals court.
The pro-life group Choose Life Illinois won the 2007 lower-court hearing on the grounds that license plates reflect the private views of the owner, who pays an extra fee for customizing, rather than government opinion.
Choose Life sued Secretary of State Jesse White after he repeatedly denied issuance of the pro-life license plates, saying that they were too controversial. Under state law, a special interest group is required to submit 850 applications for a customized plate. Choose Life gathered a total of 25,000 signatures for the approval of the plates.
White said that if the Vehicle Services Department was required to issue the “Choose Life” license plates, it would also have to issue Ku Klux Klan and pro-Nazi plates.
Judge Coar ruled that “disapproval of the pro-adoption plate was content-based discrimination in violation of the First Amendment.”
On appeal the Attorney General’s office argued that government may discriminate as to which messages it will approve as license plates constitute “government speech,” not private speech, and that the government may censor its own speech.
The appeals court found that the Secretary of State is within his rights to prevent emotionally charged issues such as abortion from being added to Illinois license plates.
The “very contentious and divisive” content of the license plates was also the reason the Arizona License Plates Commission used when denying Arizona Life Coalition’s license plates, which are identical to those proposed in Illinois. The license plates say “Choose Life” across the top and have a drawn picture of smiling children’s faces.
Arizona Life Coalition appealed its case after a district court judge ruled in favor of the state, and the issue was brought before the Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the Arizona Life Coalition.
Proceeds from the sale of the specialty license plates would have gone to support adoption services in Illinois.
For related LifeSiteNews.com coverage:
Illinois Victory: ‘Choose Life’ Tags Permitted after Lawsuit against Secretary of State