A federal appeals court ruled Monday that Texas cannot prohibit the sale of a specialty license plate featuring the Confederate battle flag.
In a 2-1 decision, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the state's Department of Motor Vehicles had violated the First Amendment in rejecting the Sons of Confederate Veterans' application for the specialty plates. According to the court's ruling, the state engaged in "viewpoint discrimination" by turning down the proposal as the plates reflect the opinion of the car's driver.
"By rejecting the plate because it was offensive, the Board discriminated against Texas SCV’s view that the Confederate flag is a symbol of sacrifice, independence, and Southern heritage," reads the majority opinion, penned by Judge Edward Prado. "The Board’s decision implicitly dismissed that perspective and instead credited the view that the Confederate flag is an inflammatory symbol of hate and oppression."
Prado continued: "Given Texas’s history of approving veterans plates and the reasons the Board offered for rejecting Texas SCV’s plate, it appears that the only reason the Board rejected the plate is the viewpoint it represents."
“This is a sad day for African-Americans and others victimized by hate groups in this state,” Gary Bledsoe, president of the Texas NAACP, told the Dallas Morning News.
A lower Texas court had previously ruled against the SCV after the group sued following the DMV's rejection. In that ruling, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks decided that the state did not have to issue license plates it deemed offensive.
While Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) has not yet commented on Monday's ruling, he spoke out against the plates in 2011.
"We don't need to be scraping old wounds," he said.
As the Morning News notes, nine other states currently allow the plates, including Virginia and North Carolina.
Read the full ruling below: