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U.S. Supreme Court Declines Review of N.C. Confederate Flag License Plate Case

Photo courtesy of North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles

By Zack Hill

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined reviewing a North Carolina lawsuit filed against the Department of Transportation’s decision to stop issuing license plates with the Confederate flag insignia of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

The suit was brought by a N.C. chapter the group. The Supreme Court appeal stems from a previous lawsuit filed in 2021 by the same group. That suit was dismissed by a local court in N.C. and later upheld by a federal appeals court.

The organization argued that their Constitutional right to free speech was violated and that civic organizations in the state can have specialty plates by meeting certain requirements.

But the NCDMV added it does not mean they’re allowed to dictate the speech on government issued license plates. The DMV said they would be open to alternate designs. 

In a 2021 statement, the agency said, “The Division of Motor Vehicles has determined that license plates bearing the Confederate battle flag have the potential to offend those who view them. We have therefore concluded that display of the Confederate battle flag is inappropriate for display on specialty license plates, which remain property of the state.”

In a similar 2015 Texas suit the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the state could regulate the content of license plates because they are considered state property.