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Justices spurn 'Choose Life' tag cases

By The Associated Press
06.26.06

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court refused today to consider appeals from abortion-rights groups wanting to block states from issuing car license plates bearing the message "Choose Life."

About a dozen states allow drivers to pay extra for the specialty car tags to show the car owners' opposition to abortion.

Justices said they would not look at tag laws in Louisiana and Tennessee.

Abortion opponents contend they have a free-speech right to broadcast their views on their car tags. Proposals to offer car owners an alternative "Choose Choice" plate failed in both state Legislatures.

A federal judge ruled that Louisiana's system for issuing specialty plates is unconstitutional because the Legislature decides who gets the tags and the money.

That decision was overturned by a federal appeals court panel, which found that the challenge amounts to a tax dispute that belongs in state court. And by an 8-8 vote, the full 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reconsider the case.

A federal judge had found that Tennessee's tag wrongly promoted only one side of the abortion debate, but the decision was overturned by an appeals court.

Justices have refused in the past to deal with similar disputes. Last year, the high court let stand a lower court ruling that said South Carolina's license plates, which bear the slogan "Choose Life," violate the First Amendment because abortion-rights supporters weren't given a similar forum to express their beliefs.

The cases are Keeler v. Stalder, 05-1222, New Life Resources v. American Civil Liberties Union, 05-1483, and American Civil Liberties Union v. Bredesen, 05-1389.


Related

High court won't examine 'Choose Life' plates

Justices refuse to resolve split between federal appeals courts over free-speech implications of specialty plates. 01.24.05

5th Circuit deadlocks on La. 'Choose Life' plates
Decision clears way for state to begin selling plates, but foes say they'll appeal to Supreme Court. 12.23.05

Tenn. 'Choose Life' plates halted by 6th Circuit
State ACLU chapter had asked appeals court to delay production while it appealed ruling to Supreme Court. 04.23.06

Ill. officials must offer 'Choose Life' license plates
Federal judge acknowledges concerns about motto but says he assumes request for specialty tags was prompted by sincere interest in promoting adoption. 01.23.07

Ore. DMV deems UDINK vanity plates offensive
Panel's order to turn over license plates surprises Mike Udink, who notes his last name is common in The Netherlands. 09.25.07

High court won't hear challenge to Okla. 'Choose Life' plates
Plaintiffs say they'll continue to pursue part of case regarding access to funds generated by sale of specialty tags. 01.12.08

State-by-state statutes governing license plates
Compilation of state statutes, regulations on specialty plates, personalized plates. 01.20.06

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