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License Plate Litigation: The Fight for 'GAYPWR' in Georgia

I like to track license plate squabbles here at LBW. For example, as you may recall, the license plate "X32 IARO" is not permitted in Sweden (look at it in the mirror to see why). And "GIV ME A" is banned in Illinois, at least on Hummer vehicles. On the other hand, as Eric Lipman pointed out here, Vermont residents are free to get religious vanity license plates for their cars now that the Second Circuit has found the state's prohibition on such plates to be unconstitutional.

I learned today that new license plate litigation has broken out in Georgia, where James Cyrus Gilbert's application for license plates reading 4GAYLIB, GAYPWR and GAYGUY were all denied. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that these requested vanity plates are among 10,214 vanity plates banned by the state. The lawsuit, which was filed against the commissioner of the Georgia Department of Driver Services, "seeks to compel the state to approve the requested vanity plate and a court order declaring unconstitutional the state regulation that governs vanity plates."

Gilbert's lawyers argue that the regulation has been applied arbitrarily and without regard to any state interest. They also argue that it is applied with "viewpoint discrimination," i.e., denying plates that support gay rights while allowing conservative or religious plates such as "JESUS4U." In addition, the AJ-C reports, the license plate regulation prohibits profanity or language the community considers obscene, or language that ridicules a person, group, or religious belief or being, race or ethnicity. As such, the state would have to argue that "GAYPWR" is somehow "obscene" -- which at least one Georgia lawyer quoted in the article doubted the state would be willing to do in the year 2013.

Posted by Bruce Carton on January 22, 2013 at 04:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)


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