New Jersey Choose Life Plates Finally Allowed After Six Years

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 8, 2010   |   7:44PM   |   Trenton, NJ

New Jersey motorists will finally have the option to purchase “Choose Life” license plates now that the state has agreed to end a six year block on them.

The state agreed to authorize The Children First Foundation’s life-affirming specialty license plate, prompting the Alliance Defense Fund to voluntarily dismiss a lawsuit it filed in 2004 on behalf of the pro-adoption organization.

State officials agreed to lift their roadblock against Children First’s plate application after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit reversed a dismissal of the ADF lawsuit in April.

“Pro-adoption organizations should be allowed to express their message as part of a program where others are freely allowed to express theirs,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jeff Shafer.

He told “The state of New Jersey has done the right thing in agreeing to honor The Children First Foundation’s free speech rights and allowing the ‘Choose Life’ plates, just as it allows many other groups’ plates that promote various causes.”

The Children First Foundation has been fighting the state Department of Motor Vehicles for years.

After having their proposal for a pro-adoption specialty plate rejected because of the slogan “Choose Life,” the Children First Foundation (CFF) submitted a new plate design that was rejected too.

In response, the group filed a lawsuit and a federal judge, in July 2006, refused to dismiss the civil rights lawsuit brought against New Jersey officials.

A federal appeals court revived the effort in April. While a state judge agreed with local officials in their bid to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the rejection of the plates, an appeals court said that was “viewpoint discrimination.”

CFF submitted 2,500 petition signatures and a check for $12,500 in February to cover the first 500 Choose Life license plates.

The original application was rejected during the administration of pro-abortion Gov. Jim McGreevey and CFF president Elizabeth Rex said she did not reapply during the administrations of pro-abortion Govs. Dick Codey and Jon Corzine because she expected them to reject the plates, which raise money for adoption.

ADF attorneys filed suit after New Jersey officials rejected The Children First Foundation’s plate because its “Choose Life” slogan was declared to be too “controversial” and “political.” The officials later attempted to amend their censorship justification, saying the plate was rejected because it constituted “advocacy.” However, the lawsuit pointed out that the New Jersey special plate program was designed for advocacy and that the state has approved specialty plates for other organizations that advocate. [related]

The U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey refused to dismiss the lawsuit in March 2005, but a new judge assigned to the case dismissed it in June 2008.  ADF attorneys appealed the dismissal to the 3rd Circuit, which reinstated the case.

Demetrios Stratis, one of more than 1,800 attorneys in the ADF alliance, served as local counsel in the lawsuit, The Children First Foundation v. Legreide.

ADF attorneys also paved the road to approval for “Choose Life” plates in a number of other states, including Missouri, Arizona, and Tennessee.