US Supreme Court to Decide if License Plates Fall Under Freedom of Speech

Is the license plate on the back of your car a form of free speech, and if so, who controls it?

The U.S. Supreme Court will decide that question. In this case there are Florida ties to the case going back to a 2009 effort to create a Confederate license plate.

Florida has more than a hundred speciality plates. A Sons of the Confederacy plate is not one of them, but it could have been.

In 2009, organizers collected thousands of signatures and put up a $60,000 deposit; both requirements of the law. But lawmakers never gave the plate idea a hearing.

Bob Hurst, the organization's Lieutenant Commander at the time, said, "I mean, you earn money off them. At the time we had probably 25 or 30 thousand people who indicated to us they would buy our plates before we even issued them."

It was African American lawmakers who killed the confederate plate, but now the plate could be back. The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear Texas's refusal to allow the plate, framing it as a free speech issue.

A Confederate flag flew over the state capitol in Tallahassee until 2001. A Confederate soldier still graces the state seal in the Capitol Rotunda.

Florida A&M University students had a mixed reactin to this. One student, Taylor Jones, said, "I probably would feel very uncomfortable with that. I wouldn't really agree with it. I mean, it's up to the state. I hope that it doesn't happen at all." While another student, Stratton Thompson said, "I guess it would be an example of freedom of speech."

The choose life license plate is also on the high courts agenda because pro-choice forces were denied a respect choice plate.

The ACLU has been instrumental in suits in other states. Baylor Johnson of ACLU Florida issued a statement, saying "States have a choice when it comes to license plates: Either produce only plates that express no position, or allow all messages to be represented, so that those who disagree with or find certain plates offensive can demand their own."

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in late March.