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New York fails to stop ADF lawsuit protecting free speech on license plates


ALBANY, N.Y. — After nearly two hours of oral argument, a federal judge refused yesterday to dismiss a civil rights lawsuit brought against New York officials for excluding a pro-adoption group from its specialty license plate program.

“New York’s specialty license plate scheme is subject to rampant abuse,” said Alliance Defense Fund attorney Mike Johnson, who argued before the court on behalf of The Children First Foundation, the organization that brought the suit, The Children First Foundation, et al., v. Raymond P. Martinez, et al., in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York on Aug. 4.

“The state has no objective standards to govern the DMV’s decision regarding whether an eligible organization’s plate design is approved.  The denial of The Children First Foundation’s design is a prime example of the discrimination that can occur,” explained Johnson.

The New York DMV rejected the foundation’s design of a crayon drawing of a yellow sun behind the faces of two smiling children, claiming a significant segment of the population would consider the design “patently offensive” because it also included the words “Choose Life.”  The Children First Foundation revised its design by adding the organization’s web site address,, to better reflect its purpose.  The design was rejected again on the same grounds.

New York officials asked the court to dismiss the case, but the judge stated yesterday that the court is convinced that The Children First Foundation has sufficiently alleged constitutional violations.

“The lawsuit will go forward,” Johnson said.  “The state didn’t meet its burden for dismissal, so we look forward to the next round in this battle for free speech and equal treatment under the law.”

Local counsel in the case is ADF-allied attorney Brian Raum of the law firm Gucciardo & Raum, P.C.

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.