Home » News » Supreme Court won’t review N.C. decision to nix license plates with Confederate flag

By The Associated Press, published on June 13, 2023

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Photo courtesy iStock: Jens Rother

By JESSICA GRESKO, Associated Press


WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court said June 12 it wouldn’t review North Carolina’s decision to stop issuing specialty license plates with the Confederate flag.


As is typical, the Court did not comment in declining to hear the case, which challenged the state’s decision. The dispute was one of many the Court said Monday it would not hear. It was similar to a case originating in Texas that the Court heard in 2015, when it ruled the license plates are state property.


The current dispute stems from North Carolina’s 2021 decision to stop issuing specialty license plates bearing the insignia of the North Carolina chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The chapter sued, claiming that the state’s decision violated state and federal law. A lower court dismissed the case, and a federal appeals court agreed with that decision.


North Carolina offers three standard license plates and more than 200 specialty plates. Civic clubs including the Sons of Confederate Veterans can create specialty plates by meeting specific requirements.


In 2021, however, the state Department of Transportation sent the group a letter saying it would “no longer issue or renew specialty license plates bearing the Confederate battle flag or any variation of that flag” because the plates “have the potential to offend those who view them.”


The state said it would consider alternate artwork for the plates’ design if it does not include the Confederate flag.


The organization unsuccessfully argued that the state’s decision violated its free-speech rights under the Constitution’s First Amendment and state law governing specialty license plates.


In 2015, the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ Texas chapter claimed Texas was wrong not to issue a specialty license plate with the group’s insignia. But the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that Texas could limit the content of license plates because they are state property.


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