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Judge: N.C. can’t offer only ‘Choose Life’ license plates

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012 9:13 a.m. CDT

(MCT) — RALEIGH, N.C. — A federal judge has ruled that North Carolina cannot issue “Choose Life” license plates without offering a choice of plates with a different viewpoint.

U.S. District Court Judge James Fox ruled Friday that the state’s attempt to offer “Choose Life” plates only is unconstitutional because it is “viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment.”

The ruling comes 15 months after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of four “pro-choice automobile owners” who contended the “Choose Life” plates were state-sponsored discrimination.

Attempts to persuade the Republican-led legislature to amend legislation to include “Respect Choice” plates or “Trust Women. Respect Choice” plates failed.

No “Choose Life” plates have been issued. Fox halted sales while the ACLU lawsuit was pending.

The 2011 law, which approved other specialty plates, too, would have directed proceeds from the “Choose Life” plates to the Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship, a nonprofit pregnancy care ministry.

“This is a great victory for the free speech rights of all North Carolinians, regardless of their point of view on reproductive freedom,” Chris Brook, legal director of the ACLU’s North Carolina Legal Foundation, said in a statement. “The government cannot create an avenue of expression for one side of a contentious political issue while denying an equal opportunity to citizens with the opposite view.”

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