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Filing date: 01/14/04
Plaintiff(s): Harold E. Hill, Margaret R. and William F. McCright, John J. McQueen, Rita J. Moskowitz, Barbara Santee, and Oklahoma Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Inc.
Center Attorney(s): Janet Crepps
Co-Counsel/Cooperating Attorneys: Molly S. Boast, Suzanne M. Grosso, and Cameron L. Schroeder of the firm Debevoise & Plimpton LLP (Lead Counsel), Martha M. Hardwick of the Hardwick Law Office, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Priscilla Smith of the Center for Reproductive Rights
Summary: CRR and our co-counsel, the law firm of Debevoise & Plimpton, initiated this federal case in 2004 to challenge Oklahoma's "Choose Life" specialty license plate scheme, which authorizes the sale of "Choose Life" license plates, and which makes the proceeds of those sales available to organizations that support adoption, but not to those that support access to abortion. The State has not authorized the issuance of any "pro-choice" license plates, and it has made getting such a plate very difficult. Our lawsuit alleges that both the "Choose Life" license plate scheme itself, and the limitation on distribution of proceeds from sale of the plates, violate the First Amendment.
The federal district court dismissed the Center's claims on behalf of Oklahoma citizens that the scheme violates their First Amendment rights by making a "choose life" plate available, without granting equal access to a "pro-choice" plate. The court found that the fees generated from the plates amount to taxes, and can only be challenged in state court. This decision was upheld by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals and in January of 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court declined review.
Our claims on behalf of the Oklahoma Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (ORC) regarding the funding limitation were also dismissed.