First, a little background:
Here in Florida, former governor John Ellis Bush (W's brother), aided by our hapless right-wing legislature, authorized a "Choose Life" license plate. The plate was supposed to "provide for the material needs of pregnant women who are committed to placing their children for adoption." However, it acts as a fund-raising agent for zealots who to run anti-abortion "Crisis Pregnancy Centers", whose sole purpose is to keep women from having abortions, even it is means harrassing and lying to women. (One women's story in a local paper was particularly disturbing).
It is the only instance where state funds are given to religious organzations for distribution.
Fast forward to today:
There are literally over a hundred specialty plates offered in Florida. More than any other state. (Click here to see most of them.) Family Values, Trees, Soccer, you name it... we got a plate for it. Stephen Colbert even supported the "I Believe" plate one lawmaker is pushing hard for:
So no wonder one such group that wants their own plate is the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
Despite the fact that Florida hardly played any role in the Civil War, and few would think of Palm Trees and Disney when they hear the term "Confederate Heritage", the group wants that term emblazoned on yet another specialty license plate so they can raise money for cemetaries, scholarships, etc. The have also met all of the requirements: a $60,000 application fee, a marketing strategy and a survey with 30,000 motor-vehicle owners who say they intend to buy the tag.
Despite meeting the requirements, our state legislature refused to sponsor the bill or even bring it up for a vote. So the SCV is now suing the state.
Whether you agree with this group or not is irrelevant. The point of the lawsuit is valid: equal treatment. When a group wants to have a parade, you must meet the requirements set out by the city or county--the government can't deny a permit because they don't like the message. The legislature can't pick and choose which special interest groups deserve to have a license plate (and fund-raising vehicle) and which ones can't because they don't like the message.
The Orlando Sentinel recently ran a column blasting our legislature for this debacle and saying they have no one to blame but themselves for this mess due to their rush to sign off on the ill-conceived "Choose Life" plate (while denying the counter pro-choice plate).
Planned Parenthood needs to watch this case closely. If the confederate group is defeated, their lawyers have suggested they will then move to have the specialty-plate law declared unconstitutional.
My guess is that the legislature will cave and we will soon have ridiculous license plates on pick-ups emblazoned with the stars and bars. If that happens, Planned Parenthood needs to pick up the ball and run with this.
One plate, emblazoned with the words "Reproductive Freedom", going to a fund to replace sexual ignorance with sex education, undoing the damage caused by the CPCs, and offering real family planning which would prevent abortions in the first place.