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Fri September 9, 2011
Anti-Abortion License Plates Draw Federal Suit
The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina is filing a federal lawsuit alleging the state's adoption of "Choose Life" license plates is unconstitutional on the grounds that a pro-choice alternative isn't offered. Katherine Lewis Parker is a Legal Director at the ACLU.
Katherine Lewis Parker: "This is a case about free speech, pure and simple. The state has opened up a forum to individuals on one side of a very public debate and has refused to allow people on the other side of the debate to express their views, and that's a violation of the First Amendment."
Six amendments to the bill to add a pro-choice license plate were voted down. Republican Representative Mitch Gillespie of Marion is the bill's primary sponsor. He says the "Choose Life" plates shouldn't be halted just because some people find them offensive.
Mitch Gillespie: "Some of these other plates are offensive to me. I mean this "Save the Whales." If you're trying to save a whale but you're not willing to try to save a life. So that in itself is offensive to me and I could go down the list. There's lots of other ones that are offensive to me."
But Parker says they're not trying to get rid of the "Choose Life" plate.
Parker: "We don't have any problem with the "Choose Life" Plate, but you know, if you're going to have one side of the debate on a license plate, you should have free speech for all."
Gillespie says Democrats could have introduced a pro-choice plate while they were in power. But Parker says that would've drawn a lawsuit as well.
Parker:" If they had filed a bill that had just a "pro choice" license plate option and there was not a "pro life" alternative, that would've been unconstitutional as well. It's just an issue of basic free speech and fairness. The state cannot endorse one side of a debate and not open the forum up to people on the other side."
Gillespie had harsh words for the ACLU in general.
Gillespie: "In my opinion they are an evil organization. I truly believe that they are evil. And I fully expect the state to prevail."
Parker: "Representative Gillespie is entitled to his free speech as well and we would support his freedom of speech just like we support anybody else's. I think anyone who supports freedom of speech should agree with us on this stance, regardless of one's position on abortion. This isn't an abortion case. It's a free speech case."
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