by Steven Ertelt
February 9, 2007
Chicago, IL (LifeNews.com) — A federal judge denied a request by Secretary of State Jesse White to overturn his recent ruling that allowed “Choose Life” to be a slogan on Illinois specialty license plates. The Thursday decision by Judge David Coar upheld his previous ruling on January 22 saying the plates are constitutionally protected free speech.
Judge Coar had stayed enforcement of the January ruling for 30 days.
Attorneys for White, from the office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, sought to extend that stay beyond its scheduled expiration date of February 21.
Judge Coar declined to do so but said he might consider extending the stay if White pursued a further appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals from his first ruling.
Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel at the Thomas More Society, a pro-life law firm, hailed the new decision. He said Judge Coar’s latest ruling is another strong endorsement of the First Amendment rights of the plate sponsors.
“This isn’t rocket science, but rather a plain and simple application of rudimentary First Amendment principles,” Brejcha said in a statement sent to LifeNews.com.
“Once you open up state license plates as a public forum where citizens can set up their soap boxes and promote their private causes … you can’t constitutionally suppress the rights of over 25,000 Illinois citizens who signed petitions for Choose Life [plates]," he explained.
Jim Finnegan, president of Choose Life Illinois, the group behind the plate, hailed the decision as well.
He said he and his group “look forward to the day when Illinois drivers may help more children find loving homes by buying these plates, whose proceeds will be earmarked only for agencies supporting adoption.”
Jesse White’s spokesmen recently faulted the Choose Life group for failing to follow the usual procedure of getting a bill passed in the General Assembly.
But Brejcha responded saying, “Judge Coar ruled that Illinois law gives the Secretary of State himself full authority to approve or reject specialty plates."
"Secretary White can’t lawfully pass the buck to the General Assembly, as if legislators should be casting votes as grand inquisitors or censors approving some causes, disapproving others," he said.
In his previous ruling, Coar 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.
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.