February 11, 2014 4th Circuit published opinion

American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina v Tata

North Carolina authorized prolife vanity license plates, but, did nto authorize prochoice plates. Union sued and obtained an injunction prohibiting the issuance of the prolife plates. The panel affirmed. It rejected state arguments that control of the speech is the sole test under the First Amendment as the cases relied upon by the state either involved compelled funding of speech or actually considered many factors. Applying the circuit’s four factor test, the panel held that private speech interests were implicated because the vanity plate system as a whole empowered private speech, the driver or owner of the car would be considered the literal speaker by a reasonable observer and person seeking the license plate has ultimate responsibility for the prolife message. Because the private speech interests were implicated, the state was prohibited from engaging in viewpoint discrimination. Here, the state did discriminate based on viewpoint by not authorizing prochoice plates. The injunction was thus properly issued and affirmed.

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