Alabama Sued for Offering Multiple-Language Driver Exams

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Fri May 20 12:43:24 UTC 2005

Alabama Sued for Offering Multiple-Language Driver Exams

( - A lawsuit filed Thursday challenges Alabama's current
policy of offering driver's license examinations in multiple languages. It
should be English only, the lawsuit says, for safety reasons.
Southeastern Legal Foundation filed the lawsuit on behalf of five Alabama
residents who belong to a group called ProEnglish. The suit says Alabama's
current multiple-language policy violates Amendment 509 of the Alabama
Constitution, which makes English the state's official language.

"Gov. Bob Riley has the duty to enforce the Alabama Constitution, and he
should take this opportunity to return Alabama to a policy of
administering driver's license exams exclusively in English," said SLF
Executive Director Shannon Goessling. Amendment 509, which Alabama voters
overwhelmingly approved in 1990, was challenged six years later by the
Southern Poverty Law Center and American Civil Liberties Union as a civil
rights violation.

As a result of that lawsuit, former Gov. Don Siegelman decided to resume
the practice of offering the driver's license exams in multiple languages.
But a 2001 U.S. Supreme Court ruling cleared the way for Alabama to revert
to English-only exams - something Gov. Bob Riley has so far refused to do,
even though he previously supported Alabama's "official English"

"We are hopeful that Gov. Riley's administration will respond to the will
of the people of Alabama and the mandate of the Alabama Constitution as a
result of this lawsuit," said Goessling. "Should Gov. Riley take the
appropriate actions, we are ready, willing, and able to assist the state
of Alabama in the event that it is once again challenged by SPLC or the
ACLU, or if it becomes the subject of any inquiry by the U.S. Department
of Justice."

Amendment 509 reads: "English is the official language of the state of
Alabama. The Legislature shall enforce this amendment by appropriate
legislation. The Legislature and officials of the State of Alabama shall
take all steps necessary to insure that the role of English as the common
language of the State of Alabama is preserved and enhanced. The
Legislature shall make no law which diminishes or ignores the role of
English as the common language of the State of Alabama. Any person who is
a resident of or doing business in the State of Alabama shall have
standing to sue the State of Alabama to enforce this amendment, and the
courts of record of the State of Alabama shall have jurisdiction to hear
cases brought to enforce this provision. The Legislature may provide
reasonable and appropriate limitations on the time and manner of suits
brought under this amendment."

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