By Kelly-Ann Brown
Special to the NNPA from Howard University News Service
WASHINGTON – Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and several state legislators are calling for the removal of the confederate flag on Maryland license plates and from state-issued property.
Maryland is one of four states working to remove the emblem from their specialty plates, along with Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee. Texas has already removed the Confederate Flag from its plates.
The racially motivated murders of nine African Americans on June 17 at the Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., have served as a catalyst for a nationwide conversation on racial prejudices and its symbolism.
“The Confederate Flag is a divisive symbol in our nation’s history and has no place on any official government licenses or documentation in the state of Maryland,” Prince George’s County Council Chairmen Mel Franklin said in a statement.
Additionally, Over 70 Maryland state senators and delegates have signed a document addressed to Secretary of Transportation Peter Rahn and Motor Vehicle Administrator Milton Chaffee of the Maryland Department of Transportation (DOT) asking that the flag be eliminated from license plates..
In the document, they requested that the DOT, “use [your authority to reinstate Maryland’s previous policy of not including the Confederate battle flag in specialty license plate designs.”
All are asking the Maryland Vehicle Administration (MVA) to again withdraw its approval for organizational plates for the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), Inc., which features the confederate flag. In the mid-1990s the MVA recalled previously issued plates based on numerous complaints that the artwork was racist.
The SCV sued the MVA in Sons of the Confederate Veterans, Inc. v. Glendening in 1997, and the United States District Court for the District of Maryland ruled that MVA violated the organization’s First Amendment rights.
Since 1995, Maryland has been one of nine states to offer Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc. license plates, and the only state that was not a former member of the Confederacy.
Just two decades later, history has repeated itself, this time with greater public opposition and the support of local leaders.
However, a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Walker v. Texas, Sons of Confederate Veterans, allows the state of Texas to reject specialty license plate designs should it represent a message the state does not support.
The June 18 decision stated, “We hold that Texas’s specialty license plate designs constitute government speech and that Texas was consequently entitled to refuse to issue plates featuring the SCV’s proposed design.”
Though the 5-4 ruling coincidentally came one day after the Charleston murders, the case was initially argued in March of 2015, evidence that such issues have are constantly being reevaluated.
The decision ultimately sets a legal precedent, allowing Maryland, among other states, to work within their rights and reject confederate flag design on its specialty plates if it chooses.
Maryland Sen. Jamie Raskin and Maryland Delegate David Moon have both signed off on a letter addressed to Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, in light of the recent events.
Burl Young, spokesperson for Maryland Department of Motor Vehicles, said that in April 1995 the plates began circulating. Approximately 409 plates have been issued, Young said, and currently, only 151 vehicles and 27 motorcycles are active.
In the document, they seek legal confirmation that the MVA can move forward and reject confederate flag specialty plates without legislation. The letter also points out that previous legal decisions have now, “been effectively overruled by the Supreme Court.”
According to statics from the Pew Research Center in 2011 for the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, out of approximately 1,500 adults only 9 percent cited a positive reaction to a confederate flag on display. Comparatively, 39 percent of participants had negatives reactions.
HUNS reporter Sadijah Wallace contributed to this story.