The Confederate flag – often portrayed as a racist symbol of the American Civil War – is once again stirring up tensions as an effort to put the flags on vehicle license plates in Texas has reached the US Supreme Court.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans, an organisation that honours Confederate soldiers, applied to put the Confederate flag on specialty license plates in Texas, the Wall Street Journal reported. Texas allows some 200 causes to put their message on plates in that state, selling them for a higher price than regular plates.
Texas barred Confederate flags from its license plates, starting a legal battle that now has reached the US high court.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans says their right to free speech permits them to put Confederate flags on license plates in the state.
But Texas argues that messages displayed on license plates are endorsed by the state and that it is not required to display messages it does not endorse, such as the Confederate flag.
All 50 states and Washington DC allow these special interest plates, selling them for a higher price than regular plates.
The Fifth US Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled in favour of the Sons of Confederate Veterans last July, saying that a reasonable person would realise that the license plates are private speech and not a state endorsement.
Enter the US Supreme Court, which will begin hearing arguments in the case on Monday. A ruling from the high court will set precedent on whether or not states can control the messages on specialty license plates.
If the Supreme Court sides with the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the state may have to cancel license plates bearing slogans like “Stop Child Abuse” unless it also offers plates that support abusing children, according to the Journal.
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