by Steven Ertelt
September 13, 2007
Phoenix, AZ (LifeNews.com) — A coalition of pro-life groups in Arizona want a federal appeals court to determine if a special state commission acted illegally by denying its application for a Choose Life license plate. The Arizona Life Coalition says its right to free speech was abrogated by the Arizona License Plate Commission.
The coalition of pro-life groups, which includes Arizona Right to Life, the Center for Arizona Policy, and several crisis pregnancy centers, submitted the plate application in January 2002 and sued the state in September 2003 after the commission denied the plate.
In September 2005, U.S. District Judge Paul G. Rosenblatt upheld the commission’s decision and said the Arizona Life Coalition failed to show that its right to free speech was denied.
Rosenblatt said the commission acted reasonably and tried to avoid the appearance of political favoritism in an otherwise nonpublic forum.
Now, the pro-life groups want a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to rule in their favor.
Attorneys from the Alliance Defense Fund argued in papers submitted to the court that the coalition is not trying to ask the state to go on record on the abortion debate but to give the residents of the state the chance to air their opinion.
They said pro-abortion groups would be able to get their own plate if they wanted.
But James Morrow, an assistant state attorney general, writes in his own legal papers that "The state must have the power to decline to express viewpoints that it does not wish to express."
"Many Arizonans may be offended if they believe that Arizona is sponsoring a pro-choice message, just as many Arizonans may be offended if they believe that Arizona is sponsoring a pro-life message," he said.
Peter Gentala, one of the attorneys representing the coalition, told the Arizona Business Gazette that he doesn’t agree with Morrow’s reasoning. He says the court should rule the plates constitute a public forum that prevents the government from going on record.
Pro-life advocates are also upset that the state legislature has approved several specialty plates and that the License Plate Commission has approved several others while denying the Choose Life tag.
Proceeds from the sale of the Choose Life plates would have benefited pregnancy centers that help women find abortion alternatives.
Related web sites:
Arizona Right to Life – https://www.azrtl.org