Friday, April 19, 2024

Confederate plates still a no-go in NC, highest court declines case review

A state ruling that had dissenters decrying violations of free speech remains in place after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case Monday.

READ MORE: Fort Bragg drops Confederate namesake in efforts to be more inclusive

Specialty license plates containing the Confederate flag still will still not be issued from the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles.

The U.S. Supreme Court did not state why it declined the case. However, the federal high courts took up a similar one in 2015 from Texas and ruled the states have authority over license plate regulations.

North Carolina decided in 2021 to stop issuing plates with the Confederate flag insignia. The Sons of Confederate Veterans had put forth the plate representative of its civic group.

The state has more than 200 specialty license plates options and allows civic clubs to have them as long as it meets certain requirements.

The SCV weren’t informed the plates couldn’t be purchased until they went back for renewal and they were denied.

Thereafter the DMV released a statement:

“Effective January 1, 2021, the Division of Motor Vehicles will no longer issue or renew specialty license plates bearing the Confederate battle flag or any variation of that flag. The Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has determined that license plates bearing the Confederate battle flag have the potential to offend those who view them. We have therefore concluded that display of the Confederate battle flag is inappropriate for display on specialty license plates, which remain property of the state.”

SCV said the DMV’s decision violated the First Amendment to free speech, as well as the law governing specialty license plates and sued the state. Around 2,500 plates had been sold statewide at the time.

The state countered the plates are considered government speech since they’re technically owned by North Carolina; thus, it maintains legal authority over the imagery and messaging.

In 2015, a Texas chapter of SCV attempted to thwart the state transportation’s authority in a similar case, arguing Texas was wrong in not allowing the group’s insignia. The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 it could restrict content of license plates since it’s state property.

North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles noted it will consider other designs for SCV plates.


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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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