Friday, April 25, 2014
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EDIT: Constitutionality of pro-life plates

A federal judge has deemed North Carolina’s Choose Life license plates unconstitutional, according to an article in CNN Tuesday.

Since the state does not offer alternative, pro-choice plates, the Choose Life plates “constitute viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment,” the judge wrote in the court ruling Friday, according to CNN.

Choose Life is a nonprofit that assists states that want to sell the specialty plates and currently, 29 states sell Choose Life plates.

In 2011, the bill making Choose Life license plates available in North Carolina was passed. At the same time, amendments to create alternative pro-choice license plates were shut down.

The judge’s ruling makes sense. License plates are distributed by the state. By passing out plates that represent only one side of an issue, the state gives members of that side an unfair advantage. If license plates addressing the abortion issue are going to be offered at all, they should be designed to reflect all sides of the issue. Residents should have equal opportunities to express themselves. Denying some residents that opportunity is unconstitutional.

The effectiveness of these plates is also something that should be addressed. Are these plates worth the hassle? Perhaps not. If the initiative behind the plates is to sway other drivers to adopt a pro-life or pro-choice stance, this seems like an ineffective way of doing so. A few words on a piece of metal hardly seem convincing. Initiating talks on the subject seem like a more effective way to encouragesomeone to take one side over another.

Also, who says pro-life or pro-choice messages can only be displayed on license plates? If residents are intent on displaying these messages on their cars, they can purchase on bumper stickers or other items that are not issued by the state and are subject to their restrictions.

The state seems to have shot itself in the foot here. Measures to provide alternative pro-choice license plates were proposed and shut down. While the court has confirmed their error, it is something that the state should have realized earlier on.

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