New York State Sued Over Prohibiting Choose Life License Plates
by Steven Ertelt
August 5, 2004
Albany, NY (LifeNews.com) — The state of New York has been named in a lawsuit by pro-life advocates because it is denying them the ability to produce a Choose Life license plate for motorists to purchase.
The Alliance Defense Fund filed a civil rights lawsuit Wednesday against state officials for rejecting the plate, proposed by the Children First Foundation. The license plate, which features a child-like drawing of a yellow sun, the faces of two children, and the words "Choose Life" was considered "too political and controversial."
"This is a clear-cut case of unlawful discrimination," said Michael Johnson, an ADF attorney based in Shreveport, Louisiana.
"New York Department of Motor Vehicles officials and their superiors have apparently decided that it’s just fine to deny The Children First Foundation’s applications simply because they don’t like the organization’s message," Johnson explained. "We intend to demonstrate that it’s not just fine with the Constitution."
After submitting the original design, the Children First Foundation added the organization’s web site address, www.fund-adoption.org, to better reflect its purpose.
New York officials at the Department of Motor Vehicles rejected that version too.
Then, on Monday, Johnson received a letter from the DMV stating that they have voluntarily, temporarily suspended their custom plate program until further notice.
"The state was clearly deciding to insert its own political correctness into the approval process instead of respecting the First and Fourteenth Amendments," Johnson said. "Now they want to kill the whole program, but that action does not resolve the wrong done to our client."
Johnson said the DMV has no official rules regarding the acceptance or rejection of specialty plates. That allows officials to subjectively determine who can and can’t be authorized to produce a plate.
The Children First Foundation is a non-profit organization that promotes adoption. Proceeds from the New York plate benefit the organizations programs.
Abortion advocates have sued to stop the production of the plates in other states.
Ten states currently have "Choose Life" plates on residents’ cars: Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Hawaii, Arkansas, Connecticut, Maryland, and Louisiana, and Montana. It is estimated some 40,000 plates have been sold nationwide.
Nationally, the tags have raised some $2.6 million to help pay for adoption services, health care and other expenses for pregnant women considering abortion, and other abortion alternatives.
Florida’s sales alone have made up over $2 million of that money, and according to the FL DMV, the "Choose Life" plates were the #9 top selling specialty plates of 89 in that state in the past 12 months.
Tennessee and South Carolina have approved "Choose Life" plates, but have not yet made them available to motorists.