Sons of Confederate Veterans sue NCDOT for removing battle flag from license plates

Richard Stradling
·2 min read

The N.C. Sons of Confederate Veterans is suing the state Department of Transportation over its decision to stop issuing or renewing license plates bearing the Confederate battle flag.

The Confederate organization says the move discriminates against its members who pay for a specialty license plate bearing the group’s logo, which includes an image of the red banner with crossed blue stripes flecked with stars.

More than 2,500 of the group’s specialty plates were in circulation at the start of the year, according to the Division of Motor Vehicles. As people go to renew their license this year, the DMV is notifying them that they cannot keep the plate with the Confederate emblem, said spokesman Steve Abbott. They are then offered a standard plate or a different specialty plate, Abbott said.

‘Potential to offend’

The DMV made the decision after determining the plates containing the Confederate flag “have the potential to offend those who view them.” Because license plates are owned by the state, the agency says it has the discretion to not issue one with the flag.

But R. Kevin Stone, commander of the state Sons of Confederate Veterans, says the battle flag is not offensive to everyone.

“The Confederate Battle Flag is a symbol of our heritage,” Stone wrote in a statement released Monday. “Symbols can often have more than one meaning. To assume the Confederate Battle Flag is uniquely offensive is to validate only one viewpoint and thereby discriminate against others.”

Stone also accused NCDOT of dealing in bad faith with his organization. The department said in January that it had worked with the group to develop artwork for its specialty plate that did not contain the Confederate flag.

But Stone said NCDOT had not not “contacted me regarding any change in our organization’s official logo” until January, when it had already decided to stop issuing or renewing the plates.

Abbott, the DMV spokesman, said NCDOT does not comment on ongoing litigation. The suit was filed in Lee County Superior Court.

The DMV offers more than 100 specialty license plates that let drivers show their support for various causes, institutions and sports teams. Many of them contain logos or other special images. The plates cost more than standard ones, and part of the proceeds go to support the sponsoring organization.