"." It's a simple statement with an important message. For some years now Florida has made personalized license plates available in support of many special interest groups including universities, sports teams, and environmental and social causes.
Soon, for a donation of $22, Florida residents will be able to use this same method to speak up for the unborn, thanks to Marion County Commissioner Randy Harris. In 1996, Commissioner Harris had a vision to create a license plate to raise funds and awareness in support of women in crisis pregnancies who would commit to having their babies and placing them for adoption rather than opting for abortion.
He began a grassroots campaign to raise $30,000 for the application fee required to initiate the program. The Florida law requires 10,000 signatures of people who will commit to buying the plate if it becomes available.
A non-profit corporation, , Inc., was formed to raise the funds and secure the necessary signatures. The effort was launched on February 4, 1997. In twenty-five days the $30,000 application fee was delivered along with 14,500 signatures to the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles. A completely volunteer effort, this was a remarkable accomplishment and is testimony to what people can achieve when they believe that what they are doing is right.
, Inc. is headed by Randy Harris, Jim Steel, and Russ Amerling, ably assisted by a small army of faithful helpers from Pensacola to Key West.
The proposed legislation did not make it through the Senate Transportation Committee the first year application was made, but it did in 1998. This time the chairman of the Transportation Committee, who had refused to let the bill be heard the previous year, spoke in favor of the bill on the Senate floor. He stated that he had talked with his mother, grandmother, and daughters and that they all had said that approving this license plate was the right thing to do. The House and the Senate both passed the bill with an overwhelming majority, then it was sent to Governor Chiles for his approval. Ignoring thousands of Floridians who had expressed their support for the bill, the Governor chose to veto it. The words "" were, he felt, a political statement!
The team was extremely disappointed, but the veto made the news, nationwide! Soon, wire services and the Internet were running stories all over the country, and the office was contacted by pro-life groups in many other states, all asking how to get a plate in their state.
With renewed enthusiasm, , Inc. asked Senator Jim Sebesta and Representative Beverly Kilmer to resubmit the bill. Again, it passed with a wide margin on a bipartisan vote. On June 1, 1999, Governor Jeb Bush signed it into law. Florida now has the first official license plate in the world that supports adoption as an alternative to abortion.
Pending the outcome of a lawsuit filed by the National Organization for Women against the State of Florida DMV, the new license plate will be available some time this year for $22 above the regular registration fee. Twenty dollars of that is returned to the county where the plate is purchased to help with adoption expenses.
If you are interested in starting a license plate effort in your state or if you wish to find out more about the Florida license plate and how you can help, visit the web site (www.choose-life.org), or contact Russ Amerling (, Inc. P.O. Box 830152 Ocala, FL 34483-0152 phone: 352-624-2854, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Russ and Jill Amerling are the publicity coordinators of the Florida license plate effort. Russ is a singles pastor and he and his wife have been in the singles ministry for 20 years. They have been working with the license plate effort since it began in February 1997.