Arizona Agency Must Move Forward on Choose Life License Plates, Court Says

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 19, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Arizona Agency Must Move Forward on Choose Life License Plates, Court Says

by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 19
, 2008

Phoenix, AZ ( — A federal court on Wednesday ordered the Arizona License Plate Commission to approve the Choose Life license plates. The decision comes after the Supreme Court, last month, let stand a federal appeals court ruling saying Arizona pro-life advocates could have the specialty plates.

The high court denied a writ of certiorari in the case of Arizona Life Coalition v. Stanton after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously overturned the September 2005 decision of U.S. District Judge Paul G. Rosenblatt.

The appeals court had ruled that pro-life advocates would have their First Amendment rights abrogated by state officials preventing motorists from purchasing Choose Life license plates.

Today, Judge Rosenblatt acted on the Supreme Court denial and issued a ruling telling the commission to move forward.

"Defendants shall hold a formal meeting in their official capacity as the Arizona License Plate Commission no later than January 23, 2009. At that meeting, Defendants shall approve Plaintiffs’ application of September 27, 2002, for a specialty license plate," he wrote.

Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund and the Center for Arizona Policy represented the Arizona Life Coalition, which tried to make the plates a reality so motorists could purchase them and support adoption programs.

ADF Senior Counsel Gary McCaleb told that pro-life groups "shouldn’t be discriminated against for expressing their beliefs."

“Many other groups have been allowed to participate in the Arizona specialty plate program. The commission had no legitimate reason to selectively exclude this group. We’re pleased that the plates will soon be available to the public," he said.

Representing over 100,000 Arizona residents who said they wanted the plates, the Arizona Life Coalition applied for a specialty license plate with the slogan “Choose Life” in 2002. The Arizona License Plate Commission, which oversees such requests, denied the application.

In September 2003, ADF attorneys filed suit and, in January 2008, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled in Arizona Life Coalition v. Stanton that the commission had violated Life Coalition’s First Amendment right to free speech.

Judge Richard Tallman wrote for the appellate court in its January ruling and said the commission "clearly denied the application based on the nature of the message” — indicating discrimination based on the pro-life perspective of the plate sponsors.

In arguing for the state, James Morrow, an assistant state attorney general, previously said "The state must have the power to decline to express viewpoints that it does not wish to express."

Proceeds from the sale of the Choose Life plates would benefit pregnancy centers that help women find abortion alternatives.

Related web sites:
Alliance Defense Fund –
Arizona Life Coalition –

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