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Group pushes to feature Confederate flag on Texas license plates

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Updated: 11/09/2013 1:00 am
Mike Walker is part of the push to feature the Confederate flag on Texas license plates. For him, the fight hits close to home. 

"Every male, three generations back in my family, fought in the civil war, and they fought for what they believed in," Walker said. "They fought for states' rights, and I believe that I have to have the initiative to respect them, and honor what they did, and carry forward the legacy that they left me."

Walker is part of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The organization has asked the federal appeals court to revive its lawsuit against the Department of Motor Vehicles Board. That suit was thrown out in 2011. 

"We feel that that is a violation of our First Amendment right," Walker said. "Because we have the right, as does the Buffalo soldiers, the NAACP, and various other organizations who already have these distinctive license plates."

"I would say to those people, think of something that really would affect them, would offend them," Cosby Morton, a member of Lubbock's Roots Historical Arts Council, said. "How would they like it if I put that slogan on a flag, and flew it in their neighborhood right next to them? To see it every day, to have my kids see that, to ask me questions about that. I'm not against free speech, but you have to understand that you can't say everything you want to say. There are people that you hurt."

Morton said he understands the need to pay tribute to southern heritage, but said the flag represents a time period he would rather forget. 

"This was a time that a race of people, an ethnic group, remembers," Morton said. "There was no happiness there. And I understand all the arguments, and all the debate about it. That there were people that were free in the south, and I understand there were also slaves in the north, I understand that. But the flag is symbolic, it's been picked up by hate groups."

Texas Tech law professor Arnold Loewy said it is not likely the court will rule in favor of free speech. 

"It's very clear that if this First Amendment claim prevailed, it would mean that anybody who wanted to have a license plate for anybody could do it," Loewy said. "I could have one that said, 'Shop at Joe's Pizza', almost anything you can imagine. So, it seems to me that the state has to have limitations on it."

A three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments Wednesday, but did not give a timeline for a ruling. 

At least nine states have allowed the sale of Confederate license plates. Florida is in the process of deciding. 
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