by Steven Ertelt
November 15, 2006
Nashville, TN (LifeNews.com) — Tennessee pro-life advocates have received an early Christmas gift as an announcement came down on Wednesday that the new Choose Life license plates will be available starting December 1. That’s after the Supreme Court in June indicated it would not hold hearings on a pro-abortion lawsuit designed to keep them off the roads.
The state legislature first approved the specialty plates in 2003, but pro-abortion lawsuits from the ACLU kept motorists from purchasing them since then.
The state Department of Revenue says that drivers who have pre-ordered the Choose Life plates will be able to pick them up at their county clerk’s office at the first of next month. After that, any registered driver can purchase a Choose Life license plate for their vehicle.
Rep. Glen Casada, the main sponsor of the plate bill said he would have a Choose Life plate on his car immediately.
He said the plates "will help young women who are pregnant and have no place left to go" because proceeds from their sales will go to New Life Resources, a Nashville-based crisis pregnancy center.
Rep. Susan Lynn, a Republican who also sponsored the legislation allowing the plates, told the Nashville City paper the news is a "positive message and that’s a good thing" for the state.
"I’m excited and very happy for all of the people who have waited for so long to have a choose life license plate,” Lynn said.
Some 1,265 Tennessee residents have pre-ordered the new plates, the revenue department reported and they are expected to generate tens of thousands of dollars to help pregnant women find abortion alternatives.
The nation’s high court did not say why it wouldn’t take the case, but it is the second Choose Life plate case the high court has declined to consider. Last year it would not accept for hearings a lawsuit from South Carolina, where pro-life advocates were appealing a court decision striking down the plates.
"Tennesseans have waited long enough to get this plate on the road and generating proceeds for agencies which help women and families facing difficult pregnancies," Tennessee Right to Life president Brian Harris told LifeNews.com after the decision.
The Tennessee litigation concerned an appeal of a federal appeals court decision in a lawsuit the ACLU filed to stop the plates.
The pro-abortion law firm said the plates amounted to so-called viewpoint discrimination since the state legislature approved a bill for Choose Life tags but not a pro-abortion plate. The appeals court ruled the plates could be sold even anyway.
The plates had been on hold for three years because of the lawsuit, which Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee joined.
Since that time, Tennessee Right to Life has sold more than 7,500 promotional Choose Life front plates with the same image of the actual state-authorized license plate. Proceeds from the $10 plates are helping to fund the legal defense of the plates.
"It’s been an enormous undertaking to raise the necessary funds to fight the well-funded ACLU and Planned Parenthood," Harris told LifeNews.com.
In its ruling, the appeals court called the legislature’s decision to approve only pro-life license plates "one-sided" but not an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment.
"Although this exercise of government one-sidedness with respect to a very contentious political issue may be ill-advised, we are unable to conclude that the Tennessee statute contravenes the First Amendment," Judge John Rogers wrote for the 2-1 majority.
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati went on to say, "Government can express public policy views by enlisting private volunteers to disseminate its message."
In 2003, a lower court overturned the plates but the appeals court overruled that decision.
The Choose Life plate passed overwhelmingly in the final days of the 2003 legislative session 80-14 in the state House and 26-4 in the state Senate. Gov. Phil Bredesen allowed the measure to become law without his signature.
Related web sites:
Tennessee Right to Life – https://www.tnrtl.org