Supreme Court Asked to Review 'Choose Life' Plates

A pro-life law firm filed a petition Thursday asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review and reverse a lower court ruling that banned "Choose Life" license plates in Illinois.

The Thomas More Society is appealing a decision handed down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit last November that said the state was within its rights to restrict content of a specialty license plate bearing the words "Choose Life." A three-judge panel rejected a claim by Choose Life Illinois (CLI), the group behind the plates, that the state's refusal of the pro-life plates violated First Amendment free speech rights of pro-life advocates.

The Chicago-based law group asked for a re-hearing of the case with the full appeals court but the request was rejected in December.

Attorneys litigating the case say recent rulings by federal appeals court on Choose Life plates are inconsistent with that of the Seventh Circuit.

In March, the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the right of Missouri residents to purchase Choose Life license plates, ruling that the plates represent a private view of the citizens purchasing them and are not state-sponsored speech. In January, the Ninth Circuit issued a similar ruling upholding Choose Life plates in Arizona.

"The right of Arizona citizens to purchase 'Choose Life' specialty plates was recently upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that denial of the plates constituted 'viewpoint discrimination,'" said Tom Brejcha, president of the Thomas More Society and chief counsel for CLI.

"The Seventh Circuit held the contrary, yet the First Amendment must mean the same thing throughout the entire United States."

The U.S. Supreme Court declined last fall to review an appeal in the Arizona case.

Despite the odds for a hearing being 120 to 1, Brejcha and other CLI lawyers hope the nation's top court will take up the issue this time around.

Over 25,000 Illinois citizens had signed petitions for the Choose Life plate, with proceeds funding Illinois adoption agencies to help children find lifetime homes with loving families.

The state has issued over 60 specialty plates, ranging from supporting troops or peace to celebrating college fraternities, but efforts to approve Choose Life plates were stalled.

Bills introduced in the Illinois General Assembly were diverted to a special subcommittee, chaired by then State Senator Barack Obama, where they died without any hearing.