Court keeps Confederate plate debate alive

AUSTIN (AP/KXAN) – A federal appeals court has revived a lawsuit that had been filed against officials who had rejected a group’s petition for a customized Texas license plate featuring the Confederate battle flag.

The Texas Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans sued in 2011 after the state Department of Motor Vehicles Board rejected its application for a specialty license plate. The lawsuit was dismissed in 2013.

A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled Monday the Texas board violated the group’s First Amendment rights by rejecting the license plate request.

The case was sent back to an Austin federal court.

“The Confederate battle flag that is on the plates is a symbol of sacrifice, honor, courage and southern heritage,” said Marshall Davis with the Texas division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

The group says its design honors the memory of Confederate soldiers and represents Southern heritage, but the board concluded it would offend many residents.

“I had Confederate ancestors from the 24th Virginia Company H from Henry County Virginia,” said Davis. “I am very honored and proud of their service.”

“If he asked black folks — especially my ancestors and my father and others who lived in the south and saw that symbol — they weren’t saying good morning to you. It was a hate symbol. It was intimidation,” said Nelson Linder, president of Austin NAACP.

“Why continue to go forward with [litigation] if so many people do view it in [a negative way] already,” reporter Kevin Schwaller asked Davis.

“It is our right to have this plate,” Davis said. “It is, again, our viewpoint that this flag my ancestors fought and died under that flag. They were not white supremacists. They were not racists.”

Earlier this year, Georgia officials released a specialty license plate featuring the Confederate battle flag.

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