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Federal Appeals Court Rules New York May Ban ‘Choose Life’ License Plates

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A federal appeals court has ruled the state of New York may ban “Choose Life” license plates as “patently offensive,” according to the authority of the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

As Reuters reported, by a 2-1 vote, the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the state’s commissioner of the DMV has “broad discretion” to decide what is permissible on license plates. The court said DMV did not violate the First Amendment rights of adoption advocacy group Children First Foundation when it refused the “Choose Life” plates.

The court reversed a lower court decision that ordered the state to allow the pro-life group to have its words on its own custom plates.

Jeremy Tedesco of Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents Children First, said the court’s decision “denied free speech in favor of government censorship.”

Clinton appointee Judge Rosemary Pooler said the DMV’s position of rejecting controversial or sensitive content from license plates was part of its highway safety protocol, and that the policy was “reasonable and viewpoint neutral, which is all that the First Amendment requires.”

However, George W. Bush appointee Judge Debra Ann Livingston, in her dissenting opinion, disagreed that DMV had the power to decide which content of license plates was “patently offensive.” She found it “surprising” that “a proposed custom plate depicting a sun and two smiling children, and bearing the words, ‘Choose life’” would be considered “offensive.”

“New York State’s custom plate program places no meaningful limit on the Commissioner’s discretion, thereby inviting viewpoint discrimination,” Livingston wrote.

The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether the state of Texas violated the First Amendment by refusing to allow a license plate depicting an image of the Confederate flag.

As Breitbart Texas reported in March, “The reason given by the Board [of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles] for the rejection of the proposed plates was that ‘many members of the general public find the design offensive.’”

The states in which “Choose Life” license plates are available can be found here.


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