Friday, December 9, 2011

Texas SCV Files Suit for Tag

Texas Sons Of Confederate Veterans


Today, December 8th, 2011 a complaint is being filed in pursuant of 42 U.S.C. §1983 to vindicate the rights secured to the “Texas Division Sons of Confederate Veterans” by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution.

The Texas SCV is a non-profit organization that works diligently to preserve the memory and reputation of the Confederate soldiers, emphasizing the virtues of their fight for the preservation of liberty and freedom. Like many other non-profit organizations in Texas, the Texas SCV sought from the State of Texas, through the Department Motor Vehicles Board, approval of a specialty license plate, both to raise awareness of their endeavors and to raise additional money to fund their activities.

This action is in regards to the recent denial by the of the specialty license application presented to the Department of Motor Vehicles Board by the Texas Division Sons of Confederate Veterans.
Currently, the SCV has specialty automobile license plates available to vehicle drivers in Georgia, North Carolina, Alabama, Maryland, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

The Texas SCV initially applied for a specialty license plate in Texas with the Department of Transportation, the proper agency at the time, in August 2009. That application was denied by the Department of Transportation. In 2009, the Texas Legislature amended the Transportation Code to provide that the Department of Motor Vehicles, rather than the Department of Transportation, was charged with issuing specialty license plates. The license plate function moved to the new Department of Motor Vehicles on November 1, 2009. At the time the Texas SCV reapplied with the new governing department, to hopefully have a specialty plate in advance of the Civil War Sesquicentennial, April 12, 2011.

The official public comments were heavily in favor of the Texas SCV’s application for a specialty plate. Following commentary by both proponents and opponents, the Board rejected the SCV plate at the hearing by an 8-0 vote without any discussion. At the same hearing, the Buffalo Soldiers plate, without any discussion, was approved by a 5-3 vote.

Since the Department of Motor Vehicle Board has been charged with issuing specialty license plates, the Sons of the Confederate Veterans plate is the first, and only, to be rejected.Through the members of the Department of Motor Vehicles Board, the State of Texas has discriminated against the Texas SCV based on the ideas and message that the Texas SCV supports, in clear violation of the First Amendment.

The Board seeks to bar the Texas SCV from expressing their viewpoint while allowing all other groups to express their viewpoint: this type of restriction is exactly the type which the First Amendment is designed to erase. The only guideline that the Transportation Code has to offer, which the Board referenced as its reason for rejecting the plate, is that the Board can reject a plate “if the design might be offensive to any member of the public…” This, however, cannot be the standard. It is vague and indeterminable. Essentially, it is no standard at all to say that the Board can discriminate based upon a viewpoint if such speech is offensive to anyone.

The First Amendment clearly protects controversial speech. Additionally, even if simply being “offensive to any member of the public” was sufficient to allow for rejection, the State has approved numerous plates that are “offensive to any member of the public.” In fact, the plate approved the very same day as the Texas SCV plate was rejected – the Buffalo Soldier plate – is offensive to Native Americans because the all-black cavalry helped fight Native Americans in the Indian Wars from 1867-1888. Accordingly, the Texas SCV seeks appropriate injunctive relief, requiring the State of Texas to approve the Texas SCV’s application and implement the specialty plate.

Granvel J. Block
Commander Texas Division
Sons of Confederate Veterans