California Court Ruling is a Victory for Choose Life License Plates

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 1, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

California Court Ruling is a Victory for Choose Life License Plates

by Maria Gallagher Staff Writer
March 1, 2004

Sacramento, CA ( — A pro-life lawyer is declaring victory in California, following a court ruling on special-interest license plates.

Michael Millen, an attorney for the Women’s Resource Network, a pro-life group, said that he was gratified that "the court declared unconstitutional California’s longstanding discrimination against pro-life speech."

Millen added that, under the ruling, the state legislation would now have to put all non-profit groups on equal footing with regard to the state’s specialty license plate program.

The federal court ruling stemmed from a lawsuit filed by the Women’s Resource Network, which promotes "Choose Life" license plates. The organization filed suit after lawmakers refused to pass a bill permitting auto tags with the "Choose Life" message.

U.S. District Court Judge Garland E. Burrell ruled the state legislature does not have an unrestrained right to determine which organizations can benefit from measures authorizing the special-interest license plates.

Pro-life activists consider the ruling a victory for freedom of speech under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The ruling will negate a number of pending bills for plates promoting animal welfare, AIDS education, the Amber Alert system, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Cesar Chavez.

The only license plate that would still qualify under the court ruling is a plate honoring Yosemite.

The Women’s Resource Network contended that "these plates were issued through an unconstitutional, standardless statutory scheme which gives the California legislature unbridled discretion to decide whether to authorize issuance of a plate."

Assembly Bill 477, which is being considered by the California state Senate, would set up a neutral-standards process for special interest plates. The Department of Motor Vehicles would run the program, but the legislature would be taken out of the decision-making process. The Assembly has already passed the measure.

Under the bill, those applying for a special-interest plate would have to have 7,500 drivers agreeing to buy a plate as part of the process — something that should be easy to obtain to press forward with the pro-life license plates.

A number of states throughout the U.S. have agreed to put "Choose Life" license plates on the roads, despite the claims of pro-abortion activists that such tags violate the free speech rights of those who favor legal abortion.

However, supporters of the plates maintain that sale of the tags can do much to support efforts to promote adoption and other alternatives to abortion.

Related web sites:
California Choose Life plates –