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Supreme Court: State Doesn't Have To Offer "Choose Life" Plates

By Marcus Gilmer in News on Oct 5, 2009 7:20PM

2009_10_05_plate.jpg The Supreme Court of the United States today upheld an appeals court ruling that the state of Illinois was not required to offer motorists the option to buy "Choose Life" license plates offered by the organization Choose Life Illinois, which is pro-adoption and anti-abortion. Choose Illinois - which counts Chicago Bears owner Virginia McCaskey as a board member - had amassed over 25,000 signatures on a petition for the plates but the state turned it down claiming it didn't want to appear to take sides on the issue of abortion.

In January 2007, U.S. District Judge David Coar ruled the plates were protected under the First Amendment. In November 2008, however, that ruling was overturned by a three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. According to the Tribune's detailed break-down of the case:

Because the state has excluded the "entire subject" of abortion from its specialty license plate program, its decision to reject a "Choose Life" license plate is permissible under the First Amendment, the appeallate court held.

The appeals court concluded that the state's decision to exclude the subject of abortion from license plates is based on the "reasonable rationale that messages on specialty license plates give the appearance of having the government's endorsement, and Illinois does not wish to be perceived as endorsing any position on the subject of abortion."

Today's Supreme Court ruling upheld that decision.