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Ninth Circuit: Denying Choose Life license plates is unconstitutional

On January 28, the Ninth Circuit issued a unanimous opinion in Arizona Life Coalition v. Stanton.* The Plaintiff, Arizona Life Coalition, filed the suit after the state refused to issue a Choose Life license plate under the statutory guidelines.

In sum, the Ninth Circuit concluded that the Choose Life plates constitute private speech, and therefore the government cannot discriminate based upon the viewpoint presented in the plates. However, the state of Arizona had done just that: it had denied the plates based upon the abortion-related stance presented.

An obvious victory for the pro-life community, the case also places the Choose Life controversy one step closer to the Supreme Court. To date, the Fourth, Sixth, and Ninth Circuits have come to different conclusions as to the constitutionality of the Choose Life plates (and as to the proper constitutional test to utilize when examining the plates). The Fifth, Tenth, and Eleventh Circuits have reached decisions on grounds unrelated to the constitutionality of the plates. And cases remain pending (or will be pending) in the Seventh Circuit, the Eighth Circuit, the Tenth Circuit, and a handful of district courts. Guidance from the Supreme Court is necessary.

Bob Egelko, “‘Choose Life’ license plate ruled free speech,” San Francisco Chronicle, January 29, 2008.

See also Defending Life 2008, “‘Choose Life’ License Plates: Funding the cause for life (PDF) & “Choose Life License Plates Map” (PDF)

*AUL filed an amicus brief on behalf of a group of crisis pregnancy centers in Arizona Life Coalition v. Stanton (PDF).