Floridians who have been fighting to see a bars-and-stars license plate in their state say they’re a notch closer to that reality following a federal judge’s ruling last week.
Almost a year ago, the Sons of Confederate Vets filed a lawsuit against the Florida Legislature for refusing to move on its application for “Confederate Heritage” license plates. While U.S. District Judge John Antoon II dismissed the complaint on the grounds that legislators are immune from litigation, he declined to drop the case against the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, finding instead that the state must defend its position in court.
The Sons of the Confederacy are lauding the decision as a major victory. “ This is a huge step forward for our case and the ruling will pave the way for the Confederate Heritage plate to become a reality,'' said Fred O'Neal, the attorney for the group of descendants of Confederate soldiers.
But that may be an overstatement.
“This is simply just a step in the legislative process” and not an indication that Florida will soon be issuing the controversial plate, according to state motor vehicles spokesman Dave Westberry.
Before such a tag to be issued, the Sons would have to pay a $60,000 fee – not an easy task for a locally based nonprofit – and prove that at least 30,000 Floridians would buy a new Rebel flag plate. Once the application is approved, the Legislature must pass a bill authorizing the department to issue the tag, Westberry said.