4
| News |

Supreme Court Says Texas Can Keep Confederate Flag off License Plates

^
Keep Dallas Observer Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Dallas and help keep the future of Dallas Observer free.

The effect of Thursday's U.S. Supreme Court ruling is simple: The state of Texas is not required to issue license plates featuring the Confederate battle flag.

The state was sued by the Sons of Confederate Veterans after the organization's 2009 application for a specialty plate with the group's logo was turned down. Throughout the ensuing legal battle, Texas has insisted that license plates are essentially state speech. The SCA has argued that, because the state issues plates to brands like Dr Pepper and Austin's Mighty Fine hamburger chain, license plates are forums for free speech.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court sided with the state. The majority, an odd coalition of liberal justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer with conservative Clarence Thomas, bought the argument that speech or iconography written on license plates can be limited by the state. Samuel Alito, writing a dissenting opinion, poked fun at that argument, noting that Texas issues plates meant for Florida Gators or Notre Dame Fighting Irish fans might indicate those team's were favored by the state of Texas, using the majority's logic.

Texas' law says the state will disallow a plate if it has the potential to offend someone, a murky standard.

"I think the line the state is trying to draw is a tough one. Texas seems to be drawing a line based on whether individuals might take offense at the message on the plates – in this case, a confederate flag. That’s not an easy line to draw since it seems that there is always somebody out there who will be offended by something, no matter how mundane. For example, wouldn’t a license plate featuring Dr Pepper offend Coke drinkers?," said Paul Collins, director of legal studies at the University of Massachusetts. 

That problem, aggrieved college football fans or Pepsi drinkers, is at least less of a morass than the state would have faced had the decision gone the other way. Jim George, the lawyer for the SCA, conceded during oral arguments that plates could be given to any organization, including jihadists and Nazis.

Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

 

Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.

 

Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.