In 2009, the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles Board (DMVB) rejected a controversial license plate design proposed by the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), a Texas non-profit group. The plate features a confederate battle flag surrounded by the words “Sons of Confederate Veterans 1896,” a faint confederate flag design in the background, an outline of the state in the upper-right-hand corner, the words “Texas” at the top of the plate, and the words “Sons of Confederate Veterans” at the bottom.
The DMVB’s action triggered a First Amendment battle between the state and the SCV, which is presently before the Supreme Court. After the recent oral arguments, many believe the issue will hinge on whether the design constitutes government or private speech. The question of whether such a plate contains racist hate speech is also relevant. Most foreign nations ban racist hate speech. The U.S. Supreme Court, however, has said racist hate speech is protected. Some have called this American free speech exceptionalism, but the SCV says they are just committed to preserving the history and legacy of confederate veterans.