April 7, 2006

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE   
CONTACT: media@aclu.org

NASHVILLE - The American Civil Liberties Union today asked a federal appeals court to delay Tennessee’s production of an anti-choice specialty license plate while the organization seeks U.S. Supreme Court review of a ruling upholding the plate as constitutional.

“The ACLU has not given up on free speech in Tennessee,” said Hedy Weinberg, Executive Director of the ACLU of Tennessee.  “Tennessee residents who are pro-choice should have just as much right to express their view on a specialty license plate as those residents who are anti-choice.”

The legislature twice rejected an amendment that would have authorized a “Pro-Choice” specialty plate.  The law in question makes a “Choose Life” license plate available to motorists for an annual fee of $35 over and above the basic costs of registering a car in the state.  Fifty percent of all funds raised, after expenses, will go to a private anti-choice organization called New Life Resources.

Last month, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the ACLU and said that the anti-choice plate did not violate free speech rights.  In court papers today, the ACLU announced that it would appeal that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court and asked that the federal appeals court postpone Tennessee’s production of the plate while the appeal is under consideration.    

“Tennessee cannot pick and choose who among its residents is allowed to speak freely,” said Julie Sternberg, a Senior Staff Attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will recognize that only allowing an anti-choice plate violates free speech rights and that the appeals court will prevent production of the plate while the case is under review.”

Plaintiffs in the case include the ACLU of Tennessee, Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee, Inc., and three individuals. Lawyers on the case include Sternberg and Carrie Flaxman with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project; Roger Evans of Planned Parenthood Federation of America; and Susan L. Kay, the ACLU of Tennessee Legal Committee Chair.

Today’s case is ACLU of Tennessee v. Bredesen, #03-1046.  To read the ACLU’s brief visit: www.aclu.org/reproductiverights/abortion/24939lgl20060407.html

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