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RALEIGH – Today the state of North Carolina announced that it would appeal a December ruling from a U.S. District Court that found the state’s plan to offer state drivers a “Choose Life” license plate but not an alternative plate with a pro-choice message was unconstitutional. The state gave notice today that it will officially appeal that decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF) originally filed a lawsuit against the state’s one-sided license plate scheme in September 2011. In a Dec. 7, 2012, ruling, Judge James C. Fox concluded, “the State’s offering of a Choose Life license plate in the absence of a pro-choice plate constitutes viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment.”

"It's unfortunate that the state has chosen to prolong what is really a very clear-cut First Amendment issue,” said Chris Brook, ACLU-NCLF Legal Director. “The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has consistently ruled that any time the government creates an avenue for private speech, it cannot restrict that avenue to only one side of a contentious debate. This case is ultimately about the right of North Carolinians of all political beliefs to have equal access to avenues for the free expression of ideas, and we look forward to making our arguments before the Court of Appeals."

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ACLU-NC Executive Director Jennifer Rudinger wrote an op-ed in the Dec. 13 edition of the Charlotte Observer tackling the challenging constitutional questions surrounding a recent controversy in which McDowell County school officials deleted the word "God" from a 6-year-old student's poem.

Read the entire op-ed here.

RALEIGH – U.S. District Court Judge James C. Fox ruled on Friday that North Carolina’s plan to offer a specialty “Choose Life” license plate to drivers without offering an alternative plate supporting reproductive freedom was unconstitutional and that the state cannot therefore produce or distribute the “Choose Life” plate.

In the court’s ruling, Judge Fox concluded, “the State’s offering of a Choose Life license plate in the absence of a pro-choice plate constitutes viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF) had filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina in September 2011 on behalf of North Carolinians seeking a specialty license plate that supports a woman’s right to reproductive freedom. Judge Fox granted a preliminary injunction in November 2011 that temporarily blocked production of the “Choose Life” plate; that injunction is now permanent.

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RALEIGH – A new state law, the 2012 School Violence Prevention Act, that will be the first in the nation to impose criminal sanctions on public school students who use computers with the “intent to intimidate or torment” school employees will go into effect Dec. 1.

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina opposes this law because it is too broad, threatens to chill students’ free speech, sets a bad precedent by telling students it’s wrong to criticize government officials, and could saddle students as young as 16 with up to 60 days in jail or a $1,000 fine for a wide range of acts that do not merit a criminal punishment. The law would even criminalize true statements by prohibiting online statements “whether true or false, (emphasis added) intending to immediately provoke, and that is likely to provoke, any third party to stalk or harass a school employee.”

The ACLU-NC is urging any student who is charged under this new law to contact its office.

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