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Texas SCV sues over Confederate license plate rejection

In November, the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles unanimously rejected an application for a specialty license plate displaying the Confederate battle flag. The Texas Sons of Confederate Veterans has now filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn that decision.

The Texas Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans filed a complaint Thursday in U.S. District Court in Austin against the eight DMV board members who voted.

It’s arguing its First and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated. The DMV says it has yet to see the complaint.

More here.

Texas officials turned down a Sons of Confederate Veterans’ request for a specialty plate three years ago, citing rules that banned political or controversial plates. The rules changed two years ago, and the board has since approved all 89 proposed specialty designs.

“We said if we don’t get the plates we’re going to sue them,” Marshall Davis, a spokesman for the group in Austin, told The Times. “There are other organizations that have had to sue their states to get their 1st Amendment rights, and this is the same thing.”

Davis said his group was optimistic it would prevail because “a precedent has been set” in other states.

Nine other states have approved Sons of Confederate Veterans’ specialty plates, but Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina only did so after the group sued. A similar suit is pending in Florida.

Davis said the design, which features a Confederate flag as part of the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ logo, honors veterans. He said the group planned to use proceeds from plate sales, a portion of which return to the sponsoring group, to educate the public about Civil War history.

Many people, including Governor Perry, expressed opposition to the plates. You can see the SCV’s statement here. I couldn’t find a copy of the suit itself anywhere. I’m sure this will eventually wind up before the Texas Supreme Court, so I expect it will be a few years before we get a final ruling.

DMV votes down Confederate license plates

Good for them.

The state Department of Motor Vehicles’ governing board this morning voted down a controversial proposal for a specialty license plate displaying the Confederate battle flag.

The vote was 8-0, with Vice Chair Cheryl Johnson absent.

The decision brought cheers and applause from the packed hearing room near the State Capitol. The decision came after nearly two hours of sometimes-emotional testimony, highlighted by U.S. Rep. Al Green, D-Houston, leading a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance while holding up a large U.S. flag.

“There are always those who take the wrong side of history for the right side of politics,” he said. “”This is an opportunity to take the right side of history and the right side of politics.”

The Sons of Confederate Veterans, an ancestral history group, had sought the plate as a way to raise money for memorials and history projects.

Granvel Block, commander of the group’s Texas division, said a lawsuit was likely. Lawsuits in North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland resulted in approval of the specialty plates, after initial turn-downs by a state agency.

“They listened to emotion rather than facts,” Block said, citing “inaccurate information that got off onto everything but our plates.”

I didn’t expect the vote to be unanimous, I’ll say that much. I’m glad they made the right decision, and I hope the state is successful in fending off the lawsuit that will follow. A statement from Rep. Garnet Coleman is here, and the AusChron has more.

Confederate flag license plate decision coming

Ready or not, here it comes.

The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles is scheduled to debate [this] week whether to create a state license plate with a rebel flag that commemorates Confederate soldiers.

The new agenda posted for the Nov. 10 meeting shows the board will tackle an issue they originally voted on last April, but deadlocked in a 4-4 tie. The motion failed at the time because of the tie, but the chairman promised to reconsider the issue when the full nine-member board would be present.

All board members are Perry appointees, a fact that has not gone unnoticed on the campaign trail.

The board — all appointees of Gov. Rick Perry — tied 4-4 on the tag last April. The member who was absent has since died, and his replacement has not indicated how he will vote.

With Perry now running for president, the controversy over the proposed plate has grabbed national headlines in recent weeks, pitting supporters — who say the tag is designed to honor fallen soldiers and raise money for memorials to them — against vocal opponents who insist the Confederate flag is a symbol of racism that should not be displayed on a state-issued license plate.

Top Perry aides earlier said the governor was only expressing his personal opinion, and planned to leave the decision to the motor vehicle agency’s board. But his opposition, expressed in an interview with a Florida TV station, had widely been seen as a signal that the plate would likely not get a vote anytime soon — if at all.

Once again, Perry may wind up getting punished by the insane Republican base for one of the few decent things he’s done as Governor. I’d relish the irony if it weren’t all so damn depressing.

You know where I stand on this. In the interest of equal time, here’s an op-ed by Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson that aruges that the Confederate plates honor history, which he had sent to me after I wrote my piece. Like I said, you know how I feel about this, but you should read what Commissioner Patterson has to say and see what you think.

Perry opposes Confederate license plates

Credit where it’s due.

Gov. Rick Perry does not support a Confederate flag specialty license plate under consideration by the state Department of Motor Vehicles board, he said in Florida this morning.

In an interview with Bay News 9 following a breakfast fundraiser on St. Pete Beach, he said the proposed plates, brought before the DMV board by Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson on behalf of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, would bring up too many negative emotions.

“We don’t need to be scraping old wounds,” he said.

[…]

Opponents of the plates, like the liberal group Progress Texas, which collected 22,000 signatures against them, said they hope Perry does get involved and directs his appointees to vote against them.

“Since the governor appointed all nine members on the DMV board, we hope he makes sure they vote down the state -sanctioned use of this racist relic,” said Matt Glazer, the group’s executive director. “We further hope that Jerry Patterson and the Sons of Confederate Veterans will not tie up the courts and legal system on this unnecessary matter so that we can focus on the important issues facing Texas.”

Took him long enough to say something, but at least he said the right thing, and good on him for that. I join Progress Texas and my friend Matt Glazer in the hope that this is the end of it.

Say “No” to Confederate license plates

I’ve been in Texas over 25 years now, but sometimes I just can’t escape my Yankee heritage.

A group of elected officials said Saturday that Texas cannot allow the Confederate flag – which they consider a symbol of oppression – to be put on Texas license plates.

“We cannot allow the state to issue a symbol of intimidation,” U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, said to a crowd of community leaders outside the Civil Courthouse in downtown Saturday.

Lee and other officials plan to go to Austin on Nov. 10, when the Department of Motor Vehicles votes on the design, with petitions and a letter from 17 state legislators to persuade them to vote against the license plates.

“We will not go backward; we are going forward,” Lee said.

Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, said that allowing these license plates would be allowing the people who lost a war to write history. “I’m glad they (the Confederates) lost,” he said. “They were on the wrong side of history.”

Here’s a story about the petitions, a copy of the letter signed by the 19 legislators, a separate letter sent by Rep. Garnet Coleman, and an op-ed in the Statesman, which also ran in the Sunday Chron, against the Confederate plates by Matt Glazer.

Like I said, I’ve been in Texas a long time now, but stuff like this proves to me that you can never truly take the Yankee out of the boy. You can talk all you want about “heritage”, but to me the Confederacy represents a group of people that took up arms against the United States, resulting in the death of over a million people. If they had been successful, the United States as we know it would not exist, and there would be an entirely different country in place as its southern neighbor. (One wonders if either or both countries would be talking about border fences in that scenario.) I cannot understand why anyone would want to commemorate that. Remember it, study it, learn from it, sure, but put it on a license plate? No thanks.

None of this takes into account the racial aspect of the stars and bars, or its sordid history as a symbol of intimidation against African-Americans. Here, my Northernness makes me unqualified to discuss it because I have no experience with it. I can’t say that I ever laid eyes on a Confederate flag until I was in my 20s. But I take seriously the objections and concerns that those who do have a personal history with this have raised, and as Glazer noted in his op-ed, those objections are bipartisan. The reason this is coming to a head now is because a ninth member has been added to the DMV commission that originally voted on this, meaning the next vote will not be a tie. I stand with those who say that this is a bad idea and it should be rejected.