Illinois Choose Life License Plate Backers Want Court to Reverse Bad Ruling
by Steven Ertelt
November 24, 2008
Springfiled, IL(LifeNews.com) — A federal appeals court ruled earlier this month that Illinois officials who don’t want to issue Choose Life license plates for state motorists don’t have to do so. Now, a pro-life law firm is asking the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse itself and allow a federal judge’s ruling to prevail.
The appeals court overturned a ruling issued by a federal judge who denied a request by Secretary of State Jesse White to stall on producing the plates.
As LifeNews.com reported, in its decision this month the appeals court said state officials are within their rights to keep the abortion debate off Illinois license plates, even though other states have approved the plates.
On Tuesday attorneys from the Thomas More Society filed a petition with the full appeals court for reversal of the three judge panel’s decision.
Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the group, told LifeNews.com that an appeal to the US Supreme Court is likely in the event that rehearing is not granted, or if enough votes are not won on rehearing to overturn the panels decision.
We are committed to fight this battle to the finish, he said and cited a recent decision in Arizona allowing the Choose Life plates to move forward.
It makes no sense that suppression of the Choose Life specialty plate in Arizona was condemned by the Ninth Circuit US Court of Appeals as viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment rights of Arizonas citizens, whereas that same suppression here in Illinois was held a valid exercise of state power," he explained.
Brejcha added, "This is a classic case of what federal courts always have condemned as viewpoint discrimination and it must be stopped.
The appeals claimed Illinois is only restricting content and not the First Amendment free speech rights of the pro-life advocates behind the license plates.
The ruling revised a decision by Judge David Coar, who determined that 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.
The appeals court also said a new state law the Illinois General Assembly passed requiring specialty plate applicants to get a bill approved in the legislature and have the govern sign it now takes precedence. As such, petitioners can no longer use the Secretary of State to get the plates approved but must go through the legislature.
Over 25,000 Illinois citizens had signed petitions for the Choose Life plate, with proceeds funding Illinois adoption agencies to help children find lifetime homes with loving families.
The state has issued 60 specialty plates ranging from pet lovers to environmental causes but efforts to get the plate approved by Illinois authorities were frustrated at every turn.
Bills introduced in the General Assembly were diverted to a special subcommittee where they died without any hearing.
Secretary of State Jesse White claimed he did not have power to approve the plate himself, and when the federal trial court ruled that he did have such authority the legislature approved a new law requiring legislative approval for every new plate.
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