by Steven Ertelt
January 23, 2007
Chicago, IL (LifeNews.com) — A federal judge turned back pro-abortion objections against the Choose Life license plates in Illinois saying motorists have the free speech rights to purchase them and place them on their automobiles. U.S. District Judge David Coar said protests from abortion advocates don’t trump the First Amendment.
Coar also said the state must issue the specialty license plates as long as the sponsors of it meet normal requirements on the design and number of motorists wanting one.
Tom Brejcha, an attorney with the pro-life Thomas More Society law firm that represented the sponsor, hailed the ruling.
"We applaud Judge Coar’s decision as a ringing endorsement of the First Amendment rights of all Illinois citizens and as very welcome news for the cause of adoption in Illinois," he said.
Choose Life Illinois filed the lawsuit in July 2004 against Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White alleging that the state’s current specialty license plate system allows for discrimination.
After receiving far more than the necessary number of signatures to submit an application for a Choose Life license plate — they needed 800 and obtained 25,000 — the state legislature did not approve the plate for two years.
Former state Sen. Patrick O’Malley, who sponsored the Choose Life plate in the legislature, told the Associated Press that the adoption advocates behind the plate should be allowed the right to express their views.
"Does that make it bad?" O’Malley said about the slogan and its pro-life connotation. "Whether it is or it isn’t, you should still be allowed to express yourself."
AP reports that the Secretary of State plans to appeal the decision even though it has issued specialty plates for 60 other organizations. It argues the legislature must first approve the plates before it can issue them.
"We have no opinion on the message," office spokesman David Druker told AP.
Judge Coar’s ruling orders the Secretary of State to issue the plates.
Russ Amerling of Choose Life, Inc., which started the first license plate in Florida, applauded the ruling in comments sent to LifeNews.com.
"This is great news from the court on the suit in Illinois, but has implications on our efforts in all the states," he said. "This is another great victory for the national Choose Life license plate effort."
The lawsuit seeks to permanently prevent Secretary White from "awarding, approving, creating, or distributing further any specialty license plates except via a viewpoint neutral and content-neutral set of standards."
"We played by the rules and spent two years trying to move legislation through Springfield and give the General Assembly the chance to do the right thing," Choose Life Illinois president Jim Finnegan told LifeNews.com in 2004.
"It became clear we were not going to get a fair airing in Springfield so our only redress is through the courts," he said.
Proceeds from the sale of the specialty plates will go to pro-adoption groups.