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Hogan 'against' use of Confederate flag on Maryland license plates

The Baltimore Sun
Hogan "against" use of Confederate flag on Maryland license plates.

Gov. Larry Hogan is "against" the use of the Confederate flag on Maryland license plates, but it's unclear whether his office will move to recall the tags.

A spokeswoman for the governor said Tuesday Hogan's office is "still working out the details" related to the state's issuance of the tags. She didn't offer any further details about Hogan's plans.

"Governor Hogan is against the use of the Confederate flag on Maryland license plates," Erin Montgomery said in a statement. "Our office is working with the Motor Vehicle Administration and the Attorney General to address this issue."

The killing last week of nine black church members in Charleston, S.C., allegedly by a gunman with a history of activity on white supremecy websites, has sparked debate across the country about the use of Confederate symbols.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced Tuesday that his state will start phasing out the use of similar plates, calling the flag "unnecessarily divisive and hurtful," according to news reports.

Maryland has offered the Sons of Confederate Veterans license plates for nearly 20 years. The plates have an image of the battle flag on the left side.

More than 175 motorcycles and vehicles use them today.

Use of the plates was the subject of a court case in the late 1990s when a U.S. district judge in Maryland agreed to allow Sons of Confederate Veterans to continue to offer the plates under a Motor Vehicle Administration program.

Maryland's attorney general's office said this week that a recent Supreme Court decision means that the state has the ability to restrict the type of speech on license plates. But a spokesman for the office said implementation of the ruling -- and its impact on the plates in Maryland -- is up to the Hogan administration and the legislative branch.

Attorney General Brian Frosh also is personally against the use of the battle flag on license plates.

"I think the Confederate Flag has no place on a Maryland license plate, or any place outside a history book," Frosh said through a spokesman.

For Del. Curt Anderson, chairman of Baltimore's House delegation, the matter isn't as clear cut. Anderson said if he's asked at some point to vote on whether to recall the plates, he will. But "it's not an issue that's on my list of top priorities."

"Will it resolve the poverty problem in Baltimore? Probably not. Will it resolve the high death rate in Baltimore City? I don't think so," Anderson said. "You can't change American history. What I would like to do is change American's future, at least the future of Baltimore."

City Councilman Brandon Scott said he believes the majority of Marylanders would want the state to recall the license plates, and he's among them.

"We wouldn't allow someone to print out license plate tags with swastikas on it -- that's no different, not to me," said Scott, who is black. "That kind of stuff for me, it lets me know where I am not welcome. As a state entity we should not be issuing those."

ywenger@baltsun.com

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