Joining Texas and Virginia, Maryland will phase out the sale of license plates featuring the Confederate battle flag, following a ruling by a federal judge.
Reuters reports that “U.S. District Judge Marvin Garbis issued the order on Thursday, lifting a 1997 injunction at Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh’s request.” It adds that the order will go into effect on Nov. 17.
“I look forward to the day when these plates are no longer on the road,” Frosh said in a statement. “This flag is a painful symbol that divides us, conjuring images of hate and subjugation. It has no place in any contemporary government use.”
After a legal battle that rose all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, Texas became the first state to end the sale of “Sons of Confederate Veterans” license plates in June. As we reported at the time, the 5-4 decision meant “that the state of Texas was legally justified in refusing to issue a proposed specialty license plate for members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.”
“The court ruled in Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc. that the license plate design constitutes government speech and therefore Texas is entitled to choose which messages it approves. Texas had rejected the proposed plate, which includes a Confederate battle flag, arguing that it was offensive to a ‘significant portion’ of the public.”
Virginia followed suit in July, with a judge’s OK. Then in August, the state went one step further and ordered a recall of some 1,700 specialty license plates depicting the Confederate battle flag.
However, according to The Christian Science Monitor, few people have turned in their license plates.
“In September, the Virginia DMV sent out 1600 new plates, asking owners of Confederate-flag plates to turn in their old license plates within 30 days. However, only 163 people have complied. According to the Virginia DMV, it is a Class 2 misdemeanor to drive with inactive plates.”
The decisions in Maryland and Virginia were handed down after a white man, apparently influenced by racist doctrine, killed nine black churchgoers in South Carolina in June. The shooter posted a racist manuscript online along with photos of himself posing with guns and a Confederate flag.
Six other states — Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Georgia — still sell Sons of Confederate Veterans plates.