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When you see a bumper sticker that says “choose life,” your blood might boil. Oh, the car’s occupant may say it’s a pro-adoption sentiment, but you know what they’re really about. They oppose abortion, probably because of the dictates of big beardy Sky Daddy who thinks eight cells are the equivalent of Neil DeGrasse Tyson. This person probably walks around the crisis pregnancy center with a placard full of horrible pictures (not that the pictures themselves are wrong — they’re just gross, and triggering, and unfair, and totally unscientific. Just because something has a face doesn’t mean it’s human. I mean, those could be gummis). The driver is TAUNTING everyone. Choose life. Hah. Where are you when the unwanted child is born? Do you show up with diapers and money? No? Well, then keep your sentiments to yourself. Bet you watch the Duggars.
Most people who see “Choose Life” bumperstickers let it go, and perhaps confine themselves to glaring at the driver. But it’s possible that someone might speed up and ram the car, causing it to spin out and creating a chain-reaction pile-up that endangers public safety. So it’s a really, really good thing that the “Choose Life” license plate has been squashed in New York. Reuters:
A divided federal appeals court gave New York wide authority to regulate the content of custom license plates, and reversed a lower court ruling ordering the state to let an adoption advocacy group put the words “Choose Life” on its own plates.
By a 2-1 vote, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the commissioner of the state Department of Motor Vehicles had “broad discretion” to decide which plates to permit, and did not violate the First Amendment free speech rights of the Children First Foundation in rejecting the “Choose Life” plates.
Writing for the majority, Circuit Judge Rosemary Pooler said the content of custom plates was “private speech” and the plates themselves a “nonpublic forum.”
She said it followed that the DMV’s uniform policy of excluding controversial, politically sensitive messages from plates, which the agency said stemmed from highway safety concerns, was “reasonable and viewpoint neutral, which is all that the First Amendment requires.”
Judge Rosemary Pooler, a Democrat, was appointed by Bill Clinton.
A spokeswoman for New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Liz DeBold, declined to comment.
Of course she would; who are you to require anything more than what the courts have said?
The New York Daily News adds some more judicial wisdom:
People “may display a ‘Choose Life’ bumper sticker — or even cover every available square inch of their vehicle with such stickers. That message will resonate just as loudly as if vehicle displayed a ‘Choose Life’ license plate. It will merely do so without the perception of State endorsement,” two judges wrote in a majority opinion.
You wouldn’t want anyone to think the state was endorsing this.
Since cars are licensed and drive on public highways, it might be a matter of time before someone decides that bumper stickers are offensive, and the implications behind a CHOOSE LIFE bumper sticker are not just marginalizing your experience, but creating an unsafe space in which personal narratives are otherized. In slow traffic you are literally forced to look at hate speech. Bumper stickers, when you come right down to it, are fighting words, inasmuch as they present a proposition with which you disagree.
I think we should require a certain level of anodyne comity in bumperstickers, and restrict their content. This wouldn’t infringe on anyone’s “rights,” really; you could still put an offensive bumpersticker on the bulletin board at your house. As long as the drapes were closed and no one could see it from the sidewalk.
Those are public thoroughfares, you know.