Or at least your car can’t drive around choosing life, according to the law. A federal appeals court squelched North Carolina’s plan to offer “Choose Life” specialty license plates to motorists. (The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is located in Virginia, too, no doubt further aggravating the Carolina pro-life contingent.) “Issuing a ‘Choose Life’ specialty license plate while refusing to issue a pro-choice specialty license plate constitutes blatant viewpoint discrimination squarely at odds with the First Amendment,” the court said. Private biases aren’t tolerated in state issued speech, according to the ruling–and you can’t get any more “state issued” than license plates.
To get a specialty license plate considered in North Carolina, 300 applicants need to request the theme. That’s not a lot of people, so it follows that there are a lot of themes. They include Duke plates and Wake Forest plates, along with more than 20 other colleges. There are more than 30 stock car racing specialty plates. There are plates for nurses, pilots, and for that nature-loving driver who is a Friend of the Smokies. The latter will run you $30, but $20 gets sent back to the Friends of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. No telling if the pro-life supporters had planned to contribute a portion of their revenues to each newborn. Now we’ll never know. Unless pro-choice advocates start applying for their own specialty plates, in which case both might be allowed, following the court’s logic. Whatever happens, it’s unlikely that any North Carolina license plate will ever be as well-suited to its driver than the one on native-son Michael Jordan’s Ferrari, which merely states the Wright Brothers-inspired state motto: “First in Flight.”
Note: the excellent Craig Jarvis writes about the legal decision here for the Raleigh News & Observer.