@NCCapitol

NC lawmakers want review of abortion plate ruling

Posted July 14

— Republicans in the North Carolina legislature want the nation's highest court to review a ruling barring the state from issuing anti-abortion license plates unless they provide a similar option to pro-abortion rights motorists.

Lawyers for House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate leader Phil Berger Sr. petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court Monday to decide whether a 2011 law creating a state "Choose Life" license plate is constitutional.

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 because the state refused to offer similar plates for those supporting a woman's right to have an abortion. The law had been challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The office of Democratic state Attorney General Roy Cooper had defended the law in federal court, but declined to appeal the February ruling citing slim chances of prevailing in court.

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 handed down by other judges. 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. Rather than continue the fight in court, he urged the legislative leaders to draft new legislation in the current session.

"I encourage you to consider that option, if possible, as an efficient way to resolve the issues raised in this litigation," Kelley wrote.

Instead, Tillis and Berger elected to move ahead on their own with the help of the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal foundation based in Scottsdale, Arizona.

"Across the country, groups like the ACLU have tried to use the high court's First Amendment speech cases to censor government expression," said Scott Gaylord, an Elon University School of Law professor working with the group. "Such efforts are not only inconsistent with the purpose of the First Amendment, but also with the Supreme Court's government speech precedents."

The "Choose Life" plate was one of 80 specialty tags approved by the General Assembly in 2011. Each "Choose Life" plate would cost $25, with $15 of that going to the Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship, an association of nonprofit pregnancy ministries that counsel women against having abortions.

The state has been barred from manufacturing the plates while the ACLU's challenge is pending.

___

Follow Associated Press writer Michael Biesecker at Twitter.com/mbieseck

11 Comments

This story is closed for comments. Comments on WRAL.com news stories are accepted and moderated between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Oldest First
View all
  • Lightfoot3 Jul 15, 9:46 a.m.

    What a waste of money, time, and resources. Do they have some kind of comprehension disability? Either offer the both views a plate, or none a plate. It really can't get much simpler than that. How in the world can they look someone in the eye and say their side should get a plate, but that others shouldn't? Has blatant hypocrisy really become the norm?

  • goldenosprey Jul 15, 9:41 a.m.

    If you are foolish enough to go to law school, don't go to Elon. The faculty does not have a rudimentary grasp on the 1st Amendment restricting GOVT.

    If the GA wastes more tax $$ on this folly, the taxpayers should sue a la Boehner.

  • KnowsItAll Jul 15, 9:33 a.m.

    Hey Tillis and Berger - where are the jobs?? Remember what you ran on? jobs?

    jobs?

    jobs?

  • 42 Jul 15, 8:42 a.m.

    Tillis and Berger are wasting taxpayer money AGAIN. Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of the constitution can figure out, if you let the pro-life groups have a plate you have to let the pro-choice groups have a plate too.

  • bechdel13 Jul 15, 8:40 a.m.

    "Across the country, groups like the ACLU have tried to use the high court's First Amendment speech cases to censor government expression," said Scott Gaylord, an Elon University School of Law professor working with the group. "Such efforts are not only inconsistent with the purpose of the First Amendment, but also with the Supreme Court's government speech precedents."

    For a law professor, this guy has got some gaps in his understanding. Governments do not have free speech because of the First Amendment - they can't promote one set of religious beliefs over another set, because this would infringe on the religious freedoms of the citizens. The purpose of the First Amendment is to protect citizens from the government, not the other way around.

  • teleman60 Jul 15, 8:30 a.m.

    Once again senator WANNABE Tillis joins his GA bros trying to waste MORE NC tax dollars in court defending another UNCONSTITUTIONAL idea of THE STATE selling plates and giving proceeds to religious organizations.

    To even think up this lunacy let alone defend it in court with TAX DOLLARS in an election years should give PAUSE to Tillis supporters.

    Hasn't Tillis wasted enough millions defending ALL THE OTHER UNCONSTITUTIONAL laws the GA passed under his speakership?

    Inquiring minds would like to know.

  • Hip-Shot Jul 14, 6:51 p.m.

    While I am pro-life, I feel that the state should not issue such plates in the face of controversy. The state already rejects personalized plates if they feel that it reflects obscenity or promotes drugs, why should there be any difference?

  • immaannoid Jul 14, 6:43 p.m.

    Exactly. Wasting taxpayer money to push their irrelevant agenda.
    The state should not be in the business of creating vanity plates in the first place.

  • dwntwnboy2 Jul 14, 6:43 p.m.

    "an association of nonprofit pregnancy ministries"- the state shouldn't be in the business of collecting for religious enterprises- no matter what the reason. Keep religion and government apart- everyone is better off that way. Just make car tags with numbers and letters and get out of the "crafty, vanity plate" business and get on with governing- or whatever it is they are supposed to be doing on Jones Street.

  • BurtReynoldsBigHat Jul 14, 6:24 p.m.

    I don't understand who would feel such a strong need to advertise their viewpoint as to put it on a license plate. Do they expect someone to drive up behind them and suddenly change their views on abortion?

More...