Judge Throws Out Suit Against 'Choose Life' Plate

July 7, 2008 - 7:03 PM

(Editor's note: Specifies state in first paragrah.)

(CNSNews.com) - A federal judge threw out a lawsuit Wednesday brought by abortion rights advocates seeking to strike down a Florida law authorizing specialty "Choose Life" license plates, and claiming their movement deserves some of the profits made from the plates over the last two years.

A state law passed in 1999 authorized the specialty plate, which allows any person or group to apply for creation of a specialty plate after they obtain a certain amount of signatures, present a marketing plan and pay an application fee.

Federal Judge K. Michael Moore ruled that the plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge the law, because they had never applied for their own specialty plate and been denied.

Moore also ruled that striking down the license plate law would "deprive the current speakers, including defendants [Patricia] Morris and [Edwina] Booth, of their rights to free speech as secured by the First Amendment." Morris and Booth, both pro-lifers, pushed for the "Choose Life" license plates.

"The arguments that we made in defense of the 'Choose Life' specialty plate are compelling and are the first of their kind in the country in defense of these specialty plates," said Mathew Staver, president and general counsel of Liberty Counsel.

"Once the state has authorized the production of numerous messages on specialty plates, the court cannot eliminate one message while allowing the other messages to proceed," Staver said.

"The abortion advocates attempted to hijack the 'Choose Life' message and require it to also contain a message that is opposed to life," he added. "What the abortion advocates sought to do is no different than asking the court to require that the 'Save the Manatees' plate also espouse a message of abolishing speed limits in manatee harbors."

The "Choose Life" plate is one of over 30 plates authorized under state law and the most popular specialty plate in Florida.

The plate generated over $1 million from private fees alone in less than two years of sales. The proceeds will go towards the promotion of adoption.

Staver said he is "confident" the case will be upheld on appeal.

Several other U.S. states are currently considering legislation to allow similar plates.

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