WASHINGTON DC - Should one side of an issue be muzzled from the public because the opposing side's arguments are controversial? That's a question that may soon be heard before the U.S. Supreme Court. Their decision could reflect back on whether the state of Illinois will offer drivers the option of Choose Life license plates for their vehicles.
The ACLU argues that there should be no "Choose Life" plates because the pro-abortion side has no interest in promoting "Choose Abortion" alternatives.
For nearly ten years the Illinois Choose Life coalition tried several ways to offer license plates that include the words "Choose Life." The effort did not move through the Illinois General Assembly, nor did an appeal to Secretary of State Jesse White progress. The group appealed and appealed, and finally ended up before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2009. The High Court chose to let lower court rulings stand, and Illinoisans were not allowed the "Choose Life" license plate option.
But after five years, several other states have dealt with the same issue, and when appealed in court, different judges came to conflicting conclusions. Because of the variety of decisions and a different emphasis on a North Carolina case, questions concerning Choose Life plates may be heard again before the Supreme Court.
The latest case has a different posture than the Illinois case did since the legislature in North Carolina actually approved Choose Life plates, Thomas More Society's Vice President and senior counsel Peter Breen told Illinois Review Thursday. "The ACLU successfully sued here to enjoin Choose Life plates due to lack of an abortion rights plate."
Wednesday, the Thomas More Society filed an amicus brief urging the United States Supreme Court to hear a case involving “Choose Life” license plates, in order to resolve disputes among lower courts over how to treat specialty license plates. The brief was brought on behalf of Choose Life America, Choose Life Wisconsin, and Illinois Choose Life and urges the Justices to hear the case and uphold broad free speech rights for license plates.
“Every American should have the opportunity to purchase a ‘Choose Life’ license plate,” said Breen. “While most states allow a broad range of messages on specialty license plates, the ACLU and its allies have diminished free speech by preventing Americans from obtaining ‘Choose Life’ plates in many states. Because some lower courts have agreed with the ACLU and silenced free speech, we urge the Supreme Court to reaffirm the broad free speech rights of citizens to have the message of their choice on their license plates.”
“Choose Life” license plates are available in 29 states and the District of Columbia, and the revenue they generate benefits adoption-related organizations, including pregnancy care centers that serve mothers in need. North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Illinois are among the states where “Choose Life” plates are not available, either due to inaction by the legislature or court action to suppress the plates.
“It makes no sense that the ‘Choose Life’ specialty plate is upheld by some courts and condemned by others,” added Steve Crampton, Thomas More Society special counsel. “Thousands of drivers wish to purchase ‘Choose Life’ specialty plates in order to express their personal views in favor of an important societal issue, but they are not able to do so because of confusing contradictions in the lower courts. It’s high time that this conflict is resolved once and for all—the forum of specialty plates should include all speech.”