Opinion analysis: The message determines the right

Via SCOTUS Blog:

Amid deep divisions on First Amendment theory, the Supreme Court on Thursday gave state governments sweeping new control over the messages that can be put on auto and truck license plates but restricted governments at all levels from using differing rules to control the messages put on billboards and other outdoor signs.

As a combined result of two new rulings, government both gained added power to speak for itself but faced the loss of some of its power to control what others may say in public displays.  And the meaning of the First Amendment, in general, became somewhat more confusing.


The license plate case — Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans — and the municipal sign case — Reed v. Town of Gilbert — came out separately on Thursday, and their release on the same day was only a coincidence, not a planned effort to compare or contrast their results.

But they are likely to be analyzed together from here on, to determine how — and whether — they fit into the strong pattern that the modern Court had followed in more or less steadily expanding free-speech rights.  Indeed, in some ways the outcomes seemed contradictory, and the splintering of the Court added to that appearance.