You gotta love the American Civil Liberties Union.
For many, many years, the political right wing has pounded them over and over again to the point where there came a time when few people would admit they were “card carrying members of the ACLU.” Indeed, the last time I heard any reference to the ACLU cards was in that great speech by Michael Douglas in “The American President” where he smacks his conservative opponent for NOT being a member of the ACLU. Brings tears to my eyes.
And although being a member of the ACLU may not be as much in vogue as it used to, it’s great to see that are still fighting the good fight. It seems that last Thursday the ACLU of North Carolina filed a lawsuit against the state to force it to produce one of those “specialty license plates” that support abortion rights. This is in response to some action last June when the state legislature authorized the issuance of a “Choose Life” license plate. During the debate, several pro-choice legislators offered amendments to allow for other plates with messages like “Trust Women” or “Respect Choice” but I guess the anti-abortion legislators were in no mood to be fair, so they defeated all of the amendments. The ACLU, in its lawsuit, is now arguing that the First Amendment does not allow a state to promote “one side of a debate while denying the same opportunity to the other side.” Interestingly, they added that their position would have been the same “if the state had authorized a pro-choice license plate but not an anti-choice alternative.”
I’m trying to think this one through a little. So, if the state of New York had voted to allow a “Support Abortion” license plate and rejected any attempts to authorize a pro-life plate, the ACLU would have filed a lawsuit on behalf of the pro-life movement demanding that the state authorize a plate for their side? Now, I know that the ACLU has stuck its neck out defending the KKK in free speech cases and other controversial, conservative clients, but why do I find it hard to believe that they would have run to the aid of the pro-life movement? If anything, that would have created an interesting scenario and I chuckle thinking of the rather testy meetings of the pro-choice coalition after they learned that the ACLU would be
spending its money defending the anti-abortion crowd.
As for this case, let me remind you that I am not a lawyer. Oh, I went to law school for one year which gave me some very basic understanding of the law but I left to take a job on Capitol Hill (and the rest is history). But I guess I’m wondering what the big fuss is all about? I ask because, if you really think about can you remember the last time you saw a car with a “specialty” license plate on it? And, let’s face it. Most folks, unless they are a little kooky, are not gonna go around advertising how they feel about the friggin abortion issue, are they? I am as pro-choice as they come, but I would never think about putting a pro-choice license plate on my car. If anything, I would be very concerned that some anti-abortion nut ball would see my car and have a little fun with it. I prefer to advertise my pro-choice credentials when I am questioning a candidate or when someone makes a simple statement that I disagree with. Indeed, I always look forward to asking a candidate how they feel about the abortion issue because ninety nine percent of them don’t even want to talk about it and, when forced to, it’s fun watching them squirm.
So, I applaud the ACLU for taking this action, for fighting the good fight. But if they lose, it’s a signal to the rest of the state legislatures that are considering taking similar action that they don’t have to worry about being “fair” and, if they win, how many people really will put a pro-choice license plate on their car? I would hope it would be a lot, but I’m just a little cynical. But, yes, I still have my twenty year old ACLU card!