North Carolina to stop issuing Confederate flag license plates

North Carolina to stop issuing Confederate flag license plates

The North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles said this week that it will stop issuing and renewing license plates that bear the Confederate flag. 

Under the new policy, which took effect at the start of the year, the agency said in a statement to StarNews Online on Monday that it “will no longer issue or renew specialty license plates bearing the Confederate battle flag or any variation of that flag.”

“The Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has determined that license plates bearing the Confederate battle flag have the potential to offend those who view them,” the agency told the local outlet. “We have therefore concluded that display of the Confederate battle flag is inappropriate for display on specialty license plates, which remain property of the state.”

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According to the outlet, the state agency had been issuing plates bearing a Confederate flag design to members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

A spokesperson for the group said members were not aware of the new policy until after they tried to have their plates renewed this year.

The move reportedly comes months after the agency said it had been receiving complaints about the plates during the summer amid widespread protests against police brutality and racism following the police killing of George Floyd.

At the time, the protests also sparked a renewed push nationwide to get rid of symbols of the Civil War-era pro-slavery cause in public spaces.

In its statement confirming the new policy to the StarNews Online on Monday, the agency pointed to a past ruling in a case between the North Carolina division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the state.

According to the outlet, the group filed a lawsuit in the late 1990s in an effort to be labeled a civic organization and therefore be allowed to be issued a specialty plate. The group reportedly won the case. and the ruling paved the way for the Confederate flag specialty plates.

"Consistent with the ruling in North Carolina Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans v. Faulkner, DMV will continue to recognize the North Carolina Division of Sons of Confederate Veterans ('SCV') as a civic organization entitled to the issuance of a specialty plate,” the agency told the outlet. 

“However, SCV’s classification as a civic organization does not entitle it to dictate the contents of the government speech on that specialty plate,” it added.

Despite pushback from the SCV on whether the move was a violation of the past ruling, the agency said it has attempted to get in touch with the organization to have another design considered for the plates.

“Since these efforts have proven unsuccessful so far, the DMV determined the agency would no longer issue or renew these specialty plates,” the agency added.

In the meantime, the agency told the outlet it will “either issue SCV members standard plates and refund any specialty-plate fees paid or provide them with different specialty plates.”