- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 1, 2001

RICHMOND (AP) Virginia, once the capital of the Confederacy, went to federal court yesterday seeking to reverse a judge's decision allowing a Confederate group to display its logo on specialty license plates.
U.S. District Judge Jackson L. Kiser ruled in January that Virginia's refusal to issue the tag because of its Confederate flag logo amounted to discrimination and violated the group's right to free speech.
But Virginia Solicitor General William H. Hurd asked a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, "Whose speech is it?"
Mr. Hurd said the state has the right to control which groups and designs are allowed because the plates represent the state and what it stands for.
"To honor someone means to make a statement about them," Mr. Hurd said. "When did what started as our speech turn into someone else's?"
"They want it on the tag because it signifies approval from the state," he said. "They want the state to support the message."
The Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) sued Virginia in 1999 after the General Assembly approved a plate for the organization but refused to allow the group's logo, which features a Confederate flag. Some legislators argued that the flag represents bigotry.
"The SCV was invited to the forum but then limited as to how it could express itself," said Art Strickland, an attorney representing the SCV. "No other organization is limited as to the use of their logo. Every other organization gets the benefit of recruitment and camaraderie of their logo." The General Assembly's message to the SCV is, "We exclude you," he said.
"This logo is clearly symbolic," Mr. Strickland said. "The Confederate flag represents the proud tradition of chivalry and honor to the sons."
The license plate would be available only to SCV members who have proven their genealogical ties to the Confederacy, Mr. Strickland said.
But, he said, "It's not going to say, 'The South is going to rise again.'"
Mr. Hurd suggested that the group "has better options for expressing itself."
In Virginia, the General Assembly must approve all specialty plates, but the Department of Motor Vehicle issues them only if at least 350 persons sign up for them.


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