From Joe Sutton, CNN
(CNN) — A federal judge ruled that North Carolina’s new “Choose Life” license plates are unconstitutional because the state does not offer a pro-choice alternative.
“The State’s offering a Choose Life license plate in the absence of a pro-choice alternative constitutes viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment,” U.S. District Court Judge James Fox wrote in the ruling Friday.
The ruling was praised by the American Civil Liberties Union, which had filed a lawsuit in 2011 to stop the specialty plates.
“This is a great victory for the free speech rights of all North Carolinians, regardless of their point of view on reproductive freedom,” said Chris Brook of the ACLU. “The government cannot create an avenue of expression for one side of a contentious political issue while denying an equal opportunity to citizens with the opposite view.”
Republican state Rep. Mitch Gillespie, who sponsored the bill for the “Choose Life” plates, said he would push for an appeal of the judge’s decision, CNN affiliate WRAL reported.
The bill for the license plates passed in 2011, and the legislation also mandated that money raised from the sale of the specialty plates would go to a nonprofit that supports crisis pregnancy centers, WRAL reported.
During the fight to get the bill passed, North Carolina lawmakers voted down amendments that would have created pro-choice alternatives such as “Trust Women. Respect Choice,” the affiliate reported.
The “Choose Life” plates are available in 29 states, according to Choose Life Inc., a nonprofit that helps states that want to sell these specialty plates.