Federal judge rules against NC ‘Choose Life’ license plates

A federal judge has ruled it unconstitutional for the state of North Carolina to issue pro-life license plates unless there are corresponding pro-choice offerings.

U.S. District Court Judge James Fox concluded that “by authorizing the ‘Choose Life’ plate without also offering a pro-choice alternative, the state has engaged in impermissible viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment.”

The ACLU filed the suit that led to the ruling after the North Carolina General Assembly in 2011 made the pro-life plates available to motorists for an extra $25 charge, within $15 going to the private Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship, an organization that funds pregnancy crisis centers in the state.

“This is a great victory for the free speech rights of all North Carolinians, regardless of their point of view on reproductive freedom,” Chris Brook, legal director of the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation, said in a statement. “The government cannot create an avenue of expression for one side of a contentious political issue while denying an equal opportunity to citizens with the opposite view.”

ABC’s affiliate in Raleigh-Durham reported that the state attorneys are reviewing the ruling and considering whether to appeal.

“As long as I am in the General Assembly, my goal will be to get that passed,” Republican Rep. Mitch Gillespie, who sponsored the original bill, said Monday, according to the affiliate.

Attempts by the legislature to approve pro-choice plates failed in the 2011 state legislature.

Follow Caroline on Twitter