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VANITY PLATES... (archive)

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Posted by RMV on April 01, 1999 at 15:41:51:

On the front page of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL last week, was a look at the growing number of embroilments among certain states and its citizens regarding vanity plates. To wit, or witless:

1. Oregon:
A retired wine dealer's requests for "WINE", "VINO", and "IN VINO" were rejected as "offensive" to Oregon's policy discouraging consumption of drugs and alcohol - by the very same agency that puts up blue highway signs directing motorists to wineries! While his case is snaking thru the courts, he's using "ZIN" - a fact apparently lost on the same agency that rejected "WINE".

2. Utah:
Rejected "2002NOT" [Requested by a man who, apparently, doesn't want to see public funds used for bribes to corrupt IOC officials.] Yet, they already had issued: "2002YES". The state backed down after the Rutherford Institute (of Paula Jones fame), agreed to finance his case.

3. Tennessee:
Denied "FROG" to a frog collector because it's "derogatory" to French people.

4. Tennessee, again:
The Director of the Tennessee chaptor of American Atheists was denied "ATHEIST" for being deemed "obscene". The woman eventually got her plate and an apology. Naturally, the bureaucrat denied initially calling it "obscene", just "offensive".

5. California:
Rejected "HIV POS" to an HIV+ activist seeking to generate public awareness for his Heterosexuals with AIDS cause. He later won in a federal decision.

6. various:
Some people are even denied having their own surnames on vanity plates.

As the WSJ pointed out, "The agencies that, in many states, are considered by drivers to be the epitome of poor service and rudeness are increasingly in charge of determining what's proper."

"It's not a public forum. We need to maintain a standard for the community." according to the deputy director of Utah's DMV.

Hmm, interesting...Are we drawing a parallel?

In the vanity plate cases that have reached the federal level, upon appeal, the courts have generally recognized a First Amendment right to political speech and other nonobscene forms of expression; e.g., Maryland ("KIKGAS"), Ohio ("GOD CAN"), Oregon ("PRAY"), Utah ("THNXGOD" and "IM4GOD"), and Virginia ("GOVTSUX").

How can that be? Like your driver's license, a vanity plate is a Privilege NOT a Right. Your Right of Way on the motorways is not a Right.

Is there anyone here willing to admit to being, in effect, the cyber equivalent of an DMV bureaucrat?

April 1, 1999

Source: THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, March 25, 1999, page A1
"FUHGETITJACK! Is Often a Response In Vanity-Plate Fights"

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