ACLU Asks U.S. Supreme Court to Review Tennessee’s Anti-Choice License Plate Program

Affiliate: ACLU of Tennessee
May 1, 2006 12:00 am

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NASHVILLE – The American Civil Liberties Union today asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review a lower court decision upholding an anti-choice specialty license plate in Tennessee, saying that the specialty license plate program violates the free speech rights of some Tennessee residents.

“We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will agree that Tennessee cannot discriminate against people because of their point of view,” said Julie Sternberg, a Senior Staff Attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “If the state is going to give some people the opportunity to express their opinions on their license plates, it must allow people with opposing viewpoints the same opportunity.”

The legislature twice rejected an amendment that would have authorized a “Pro-Choice” specialty plate. The law in question makes a “Choose Life” license plate available to motorists for an annual fee of $35 over and above the basic cost of registering a car in the state. Fifty percent of all funds raised, after expenses, will go to a private anti-choice organization called New Life Resources.

Last month, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Tennessee must postpone production of the anti-choice plate while the Supreme Court considers the ACLU’s appeal. In March, that same court issued a decision saying that the plate did not violate free speech rights.

“The state of Tennessee cannot silence viewpoints it doesn’t like,” said Hedy Weinberg, Executive Director of the ACLU of Tennessee. “The specialty plate program, in its current form, gags some speech while championing others.”

Plaintiffs in the case include the ACLU of Tennessee, Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee, Inc., and three individuals. Lawyers on the case include Sternberg, Brigitte Amiri, and Carrie Flaxman with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project; Roger Evans of Planned Parenthood Federation of America; and Susan L. Kay, the ACLU of Tennessee Legal Committee Chair.

Today’s case is ACLU of Tennessee v. Bredesen, #03-1046. To read the ACLU’s brief to the Supreme Court go to:

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