NC Judge Denies Pro-Life License Plates, Calls for Pro-Choice Alternative

In a decision issued last week, a North Carolina judge ruled that the state may only issue pro-life themed license plates if it also provides pro-choice license plates as an alternative.

"This court concludes ... that the state's offering of a Choose Life license plate in the absence of a pro-choice plate constitutes viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment," U.S. District Court Judge James Fox said in his Dec. 7 ruling, as reported by The Associated Press.

Additionally, Chris Brook, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the 2011 lawsuit regarding the plates, called Friday's ruling "a great victory for the free speech rights of all North Carolinians, regardless of their point of view on reproductive freedom," according to Fox News 8.

A spokesperson for the North Carolina Attorney General's Office said Dec. 10 that she was unsure if the state planned to appeal the ruling.

The plates were initially approved during the state's 2011 legislative session under the title Bill 289, with Rep. Mitch Gillespie (R-McDowell) sponsoring the bill.

The legislature reportedly blocked six separate amendments that offered an alternative license plate option for those who are pro-choice, which included "Trust Women. Respect Choice," and "Respect Choice," according to WGHP-TV.

The American Civil Liberties Union then filed a lawsuit to block the plates in Sept. 2011, arguing that the license plates were a viewpoint-discrimination violation because they did not offer a sponsored alternative to the pro-life plates.

At the time of the lawsuit's filing, Judge Fox ordered a temporary block on the production of the plates until legal action was determined.

The 376 North Carolina residents who applied for the plates, which cost $25 each, received refunds.

Rep. Gillespie told CNN affiliate WRAL-TV that he would strongly push for the attorney general to appeal Judge Fox's decision.

"Every case is different. They could rule differently," Gillespie told WRAL-TV regarding the outcome of an appeal.

"There's a very good debate over whether it's viewpoint discrimination," he added.

Gillespie went on to say that he strongly opposes the pro-choice alternative to the license plate.

"I'd be willing to sacrifice this before I'd be willing to vote for that. Personally, I couldn't do it," he said, adding, "My personal convictions on this are strong."

The "Choose Life" license plate is currently available in 29 states, according to the Choose Life America website, the organization that created the license plates and forwards proceeds from each plate sale to pregnancy counseling centers.