Supreme Court Declines to Hear North Carolina’s Halting Confederate Flag License Plates

June 12, 2023

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to review North Carolina’s decision to stop issuing specialty license plates that had featured the Confederate flag.

The Court did not comment on declining to hear the lawsuit brought by the North Carolina chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans after the state decided to stop issuing the plates in 2021. The plaintiffs had claimed that the state was violating state and federal law by not allowing the plates. A lower court dismissed the case, and a federal appeals court agreed with that decision.

Along with three standard plates, North Carolina offers more than 200 different specialty plates. Civic groups, like the plaintiffs’, can create specialty plates if they meet specific requirements.

In 2021, however, North Carolina’s Department of Transportation informed the group in a letter that it would “no longer issue or renew specialty license plates bearing the Confederate battle flag or any variation of that flag” because the plates “have the potential to offend those who view them.”

The state said it would consider alternate artwork for the plates’ design if it does not contain the Confederate flag.

The case echoes a 2015 decision by the Supreme Court, when the Texas chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans sued that state for not allowing a specialty license plate with the group’s insignia. In a 5-4 ruling that year, the Court ruled in favor of Texas, saying it could limit content because license plates are state property.

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