The Sun Gazette
Virginia residents soon will have several new options when it comes to slogans gracing their license plates.
Before skedaddling out of Richmond after a 46-day session, the General Assembly approved legislation providing for “Don’t Tread on Me” and “In God We Trust” license-plate options for Old Dominion drivers.
The votes were unanimous: 37-0 in the state Senate and 99-0 in the House of Delegates.
The entire Arlington delegation voted to support the annual license-plate bill, which also includes a new plate for supporters of the Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The “Don’t Tread on Me” slogan was part of the 18th-century Gadsden flag, notable for having a coiled rattlesnake on a bright-yellow background. Over the past two years, the flag has become a symbol of the Tea Party and some conservative activists.
“In God We Trust” was adopted as the official motto of the United States in 1956, although it began appearing on some U.S. coinage a century before. The motto continues to appear on coinage and bills, and has survived numerous court challenges by those who contend it violates the constitutional separation of church and state.
Virginia has long had among the widest array of license-plate choices for residents, many of whom pay a premium to vocalize their avocational interests, college affiliations, favorite sports teams or political viewpoints on their plates.
Using license plates to promote political points of view seems to be legally OK as long as one side is not favored over the other. One example: In 2009, the General Assembly passed a “Choose Life” plate, while a year later it approved one with the slogan “Trust Women/Respect Choice.”
There have been calls for the General Assembly to give up its authority over which license plates win approval, but legislators so far have been immune to the requests.