Free speech could start applying to license plates next year. The U.S. Supreme Court announced Friday it would hear a case involving a Texas group's denied request to put Confederate battle flags on specialty license plates. The organization is arguing that the state's motor vehicle board violated the First Amendment by forbidding the images, the Associated Press reported. The Supreme Court will hear the appeal in March.
Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans revolves around whether license plates can be considered government speech, SCOTUSblog reported, and whether it is a violation of the First Amendment for the government to deny some messages from appearing on plates.
â€” WBIR Channel 10 (@wbir) Dec. 5, 2014
In 2011, the Texas division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans proposed a design showing a small version of the square, red, white and blue flag adopted by the Confederacy during the Civil War. The group said the design was a tribute to Confederate soldiers, but the Texas motor vehicle board turned it down on grounds that it was racially insensitive and represented repression. There are nine other U.S. states with Confederate flag license plate designs, including Virginia, Alabama and Maryland, the Dallas Morning News reported.
The Texas group sued, and the case was dismissed when U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks backed the board's rejection of the license plates. A federal appeals court later overturned that decision, saying the board's choice was "impermissible viewpoint discrimination" that violated the Sons of Confederate Veterans' rights. That's the ruling the Supreme Court is reviewing. In doing so, it put a similar case on hold in North Carolina, where the state OK'd a pro-life plate, but not a pro-abortion one, USA Today reported.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry reportedly came out against the Confederate flag plate in 2011. "We don't need to be scraping old wounds," he said in 2011.