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Judge Says Virginia Can Refuse To Issue Confederate License Plates

Close on the heels of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that granted Texas the right to refuse to issue Confederate-themed license plates, a federal judge has effectively vacated a state injunction in Virginia that kept officials there from similarly blocking such plates.

Judge Jackson L. Kiser will issue a separate written order on whether the 1,700 Confederate license plates that have already been issued can be recalled by the state.

The Washington Post writes:

"At a U.S. District Court hearing in Danville, state Attorney General Mark R. Herring's office argued that a 14-year-old injunction that keeps Virginia from prohibiting the use of the flag on license plates should be vacated because the Supreme Court found that government-issued items are not protected as free speech under the U.S. Constitution.

"'Accordingly, it is now the law of the land that States may decide, as the Commonwealth of Virginia did in 1999, not to place the Confederate battle flag emblem on their specialty license plates,' Herring's office argued in a motion filed in June, after the Supreme Court ruling."

As we wrote in June, in a 5-4 decision in Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc., the high court ruled "that the license plate design constitutes government speech and therefore Texas is entitled to choose which messages it approves."

Texas had rejected a proposed plate because it included the Confederate battle flag. The state argued that the symbol was offensive to a "significant portion" of the public, but the move was subsequently challenged in court. That U.S. Supreme Court decision reversed a lower court ruling that had gone against Texas.

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Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.

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