Supreme Court Rules Texas Not Required To Put Confederate Flag On Custom License Plate
June 20, 2015

Today the United States Supreme Court ruled that the state of Texas did not have to make custom license plates with the Confederate flag on them for the Sons of Confederate Veterans. It was a close decision, with Justice Clarence Thomas joining the liberal justices to make the 5-vote majority in favor of Texas.

Chris Geidner at Buzzfeed has details:

In a 5–4 decision, the court ruled that Texas’ speciality vehicle license plates constitute government speech, and the state was therefore within its rights to refuse an application by the Sons of Confederate Veterans.


“Texas license plates are, essentially, government IDs,” Breyer wrote for the court, in deciding the 5th Circuit was wrong as to whether specialty plates are government speech. “And issuers of ID ‘typically do not permit’ the placement on their IDs of ‘message[s] with which they do not wish to be associated.’”

Although the Sons of Confederate Veterans had argued that such specialty plates were not actually government speech but were, instead, an example of the state opening up a forum for private speech, the court rejected that — calling such an argument “misplaced here.”

Adam B at Daily Kos summed it up well:

Accordingly, just as Texas can't force private individuals to express a view with which the private party disagrees—with the Court citing both the mandatory Pledge of Allegiance case and the Boston/St. Patrick's Day/gay marchers' case as precedent—nor can the SCV force Texas to carry a message it deems offensive.

If Texas hadn't decided to make a profit on their state-issued auto ID plates, this never would have been a problem in the first place. The dissent has a point -- if you're going to sell space on license plates for revenue, how do you decide what is too offensive to profit from?

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