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Supreme Court Sides with Texas in Confederate License Plate Lawsuit

(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

In a 5 to 4 vote, the United States Supreme Court ruled today that Texas did not violate the First Amendment when it refused to allow specialty license plates with the Confederate flag.

In Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, the Supreme Court ruled that discrimination did not take place, nor violation of the First Amendment, when Texas refused to allow specialty plates to feature the Confederate flag, saying that license plates are speech of the government and not applicable to First Amendment attacks.  According to Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who wrote the majority opinion,

As a general matter, when the government speaks it is entitled to promote a program, to espouse a policy or to take a position.

Breyer noted that as license plates are government issued, messages on plates could be construed as endorsed by said government.  In the dissenting opinion, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. scoffed at the idea that license plates could be taken as government endorsement, citing available Texas plates that feature “Rather Be Golfing” or the University of Oklahoma logo, equating the latter to treason during football season.

Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia all allow license plates featuring the Confederate flag with the intention of honoring southern heritage.  The board for the Texas Motor Vehicles Department ruled that the flag was offensive and referenced hatred,

A significant portion of the public associates the Confederate flag with organizations advocating expressions of hate directed toward people or groups that is demeaning to those people or groups.

Justices Sotomayor, Kagan, Thomas, and Ginsburg voted with Justice Breyer in the majority opinion, with Alito, Kennedy, Roberts, and Scalia making up the dissenting votes.  The Supreme Court’s ruling today allows for precedence if the aforementioned nine states that allow the specialty plates decide to ban them.

via New York Times 

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