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Tenn. 'Choose Life' plate challenged

By Associated Press
Published November 7, 2003

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood on Thursday sued to stop Tennessee from issuing specialty license plates with a "Choose Life" message.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, contends the license plate discriminates against residents with an opposing viewpoint because there is no car tag available with their message.

"The state of Tennessee has opened a state-created forum to one viewpoint alone in the public controversy over abortion," the lawsuit says.

Tennessee ACLU executive director Hedy Weinberg said an attempt on the Senate floor to amend the bill to create a license plate with an opposing message was defeated.

"The state can allow license plates to be used to promote messages, but if they do they can't select what message they promote," she said in a news conference. "They can't pick and choose."

Brian Harris of Tennessee Right to Life, an anti-abortion group, said the lawsuit is baseless.

"The pro-abortionists charge that they have somehow been denied is ridiculous," he said in a statement. "The pro-abortionists never filed a bill to enact a pro-abortion plate."

The state has 20 days to respond to the lawsuit.

"Choose Life" plates have been challenged in other states. Florida courts ruled in 2001 against a challenge to the state's plate bearing the slogan.

A federal judge in July ruled Louisiana's "Choose Life" tag unconstitutional because the state does not offer an opposing view.

The plates also are issued in Maryland, Arkansas, Alabama, Hawaii, Mississippi and Oklahoma.

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