The License Plate as Podium: Who Speaks—You or the Government?
UVA Law Faculty Affiliations
On June 18, in Walker v. Texas Division, the Supreme Court ruled that the state of Texas could refuse to produce a specialty license plate featuring a Confederate battle flag. The ruling overturns a previous decision from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Writing for a five-person majority, Justice Stephen Breyer concluded that specialty license plates are a form of government speech, and therefore Texas may decide what the plates can say and what they cannot.
“Indeed,” Breyer writes, “a person who displays a message on a Texas license plate likely intends to convey to the public that the State has endorsed that message. If not, the individual could simply display the message in question in larger letters on a bumper sticker right next to the plate,” Breyer writes.