The KKK’s participation in Georgia’s Adopt-A-Highway program has become a point of heated debate. However, on Tuesday, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of the controversial organization.
The Georgia Department of Transportation’s Adopt-A-Highway program was introduced as part of an ongoing effort to “Keep Georgia Beautiful.” As explained by GDOT, the program allowed individuals and organizations to “adopt” a section of a state highway, which they were responsible for keeping free from litter.
In return, the individual or organization’s name would be displayed on a sign along the portion of the highway they were responsible for cleaning.
Although there was no cost to participate in Georgia’s Adopt-A-Highway program, interested parties were required to complete an application process with the Department of Transportation. If approved, the individual or organization was required to reapply for a permit every two years.
Georgia’s Adopt-A-Highway brochure clearly states, “Any civic-minded organization, business, individual, family, city, county, state, or federal agency is welcome to volunteer in the Georgia Adopt-a-Highway program.”
With the exception of a prerequisite that required “each volunteer group must have at least six members, with three backup members,” there are no listed rules prohibiting certain individuals or organization from participating in the program. However, an application submitted by the KKK was rejected by the state.
— Newsy (@NewsyVideos) July 6, 2016
In the official notice of denial, Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Keith Golden explained the controversial decision.
“The impact of erecting a sign naming an organization which has a long-rooted history of civil disturbance would cause a significant public concern. Impacts include safety of the travelling public, potential social unrest, driver distraction, or interference with the flow of traffic.”
The Department of Transportation’s decision to reject the KKK’s participation in Georgia’s Adopt-A-Highway program was challenged in a 2012 lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation. Two years later, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Shawn Ellen LaGrua ruled in favor of the ACLU and the KKK. In her decision, the judge explained that the organization was subjected to “viewpoint-based” discrimination, which is prohibited by Georgia’s Constitution.
Amid the ongoing controversy, the Georgia Department of Transportation suspended new application requests for their Adopt-A-Highway program. It is unclear whether the application process will resume at a later date. However, the website urges interested parties to “check back regularly for updates.”
Although Judge Shawn Ellen LaGrua’s ruling was clear, the state of Georgia filed an appeal with the Supreme Court. On Tuesday, the high court voted unanimously in favor of rejecting the appeal.
The KKK’s participation in Georgia’s Adopt-A-Highway and the organization’s constitutional rights were mentioned briefly in the Supreme Court’s ruling. However, their rejection of the appeal was based on jurisdiction.
As the Georgia Department of Transportation’s denial of the KKK’s Adopt-A-Highway application was determined to be “an administrative decision,” the state must file an “application for discretionary review” with the Supreme Court.
Due to the fact that the state did not file the proper application with their appeal, the high court simply does not have jurisdiction over the controversial case.
— IBTimes UK (@IBTimesUK) July 6, 2016
As reported by CNN, it is unclear how the case will proceed. However, it will likely be sent back to the lower court. If the ACLU and the KKK continue to pursue the case, it could eventually go to trial.
Although Judge Shawn Ellen LaGrua and the Supreme Court’s decisions are being touted as victories for the KKK, the organization’s name is not currently posted on any of Georgia’s highways.