Republican leaders of the N.C. General Assembly are determined to keep trying to get pro-life specialty license plates approved even though two courts have already declared them unconstitutional. Lawyers for House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate leader Phil Berger Sr. petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court Monday to hear the case.
A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, ruled unanimously in February that the license plate violated the First Amendment.
The interesting thing is that the state attorney general’s office suggested a less expensive way for the lawmakers to achieve their goal. Draft new legislation with both anti-abortion and pro-choice license plate options.
In an April 30 email to staffers for Tillis and Berger, Chief Deputy Attorney General Grayson Kelley said the appeals court ruling was consistent with case law and recent decisions. The 4th Circuit struck down a similar South Carolina law in 2004 and the Supreme Court subsequently declined to hear the case.
Kelley said state taxpayers would likely be required to pay any further legal fees incurred by those challenging the law.
Appeals court Judge James Wynn got it right: “Chief amongst the evils the First Amendment prohibits are government ‘restrictions distinguishing among different speakers, allowing speech by some but not others,’” he wrote. “North Carolina seeks to do just that: privilege speech on one side of the hotly debated issue – reproductive choice – while silencing opposing voices.”
Tillis and Berger are wrong to keep pursuing this. Taxpayer dollars can be better utilized.
Associate Editor Fannie Flono
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