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Old 03-15-2002, 01:50 PM   #1
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ethnic or offensive license plates

Interesting article:

'IRISH1' vanity plate violates restriction on ethnic references, state says

Associated Press

Published Mar 15, 2002
SOUTH ROYALTON, Vt. -- A few days before St. Patrick's Day, Carol Ann Martin was decked out in a pale green dress and bright green headband with shamrocks and leprechaun.

The occasion was not a corned beef and cabbage festival but a hearing before the Vermont Supreme Court at which Martin's lawyer argued that she should be allowed to have "IRISH1" on her license plate.

The case arrived at the high court after the state Department of Motor Vehicles said the plate violated its rule against references to ethnic groups.

"The people of this state want to have words or phrases on their license plates that are positive and meaningful to them," Martin said after the hearing. "What's wrong with 'Irish'?"

It's a fight seen in states around the country as they grapple with where to draw the line between free expression and words that might offend or serve as an invitation to trouble.

In Ohio, the fight has been over a proposed plate saying "H8 MICH," a criticism either of nearby Michigan or its sports teams. The motor vehicle agency automatically rejects all requests for "hate" -- "H8" -- plates, as well as those that include profanity, drug references and ethnic slurs.

"WINE" was the license plate at issue before the Oregon Supreme Court on Thursday. Michael Higgins, a 65-year-old retired wine merchant, went to court after his applications for plates saying "WINE," "IN VINO" and "VINO" were rejected. Oregon's motor vehicle agency bans references to alcohol, tobacco or drugs, along with vulgar or sex-related words.

Higgins' question is this: "Why shouldn't people be able to put anything on a vanity plate that they can put on a bumper sticker?"

Bonnie Rutledge, Vermont's motor vehicles commissioner, said license plates are state property, and their main purpose is to identify vehicles.

"That is not really the purpose of a license plate -- to put out your own personal message," she said.

Under Vermont law, the commissioner can reject an application for a vanity plate that "might be offensive or confusing to the general public."

For example, Paula Perry of East Montpelier recently lost her bid to have "SHTHPNS" on her license plates. It's not what you might think: Perry said it stood for "shout happiness."

At issue are rules the commissioner issued interpreting the law. Barred are "combinations of letters or numbers that refer in any language to a race, religion, color, deity, ethnic heritage, gender, sexual orientation, disability status or political affiliation."

Rutledge said the rules are stricter than they used to be -- "IRISH" is on a set of Vermont plates right now, for example.

At the Vermont Supreme Court hearing, Chief Justice Jeffrey Amestoy asked if a strict reading of the word "color" on the forbidden list might bar someone from having a plate that said "BLUE."

John Bloomer, Martin's lawyer, expanded on that point in a later interview. "Under the current rule you can have 'GO SOX' but not 'GO RED SOX' and not 'GO YANKS," he said.

The hearing had its lighter moments, including when Justice James Morse asked about more indirect ethnic references and referred to the word "SHAMROCK" on a license plate.

"I think this close to March 17, it probably would be fine," Griffin said to a laugh from the audience.

He needn't worry: "SHAMROCK" is eight letters and vanity plates are limited to seven.


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Old 03-15-2002, 01:57 PM   #2
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California DMV denied my plate titled:


Saying that it was offensive.

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Old 03-15-2002, 03:13 PM   #3
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Originally posted by sulawesigirl4:

mebbe a real original one like SULA U2.

I am SOOOOOO offended!

I agree with the woman on the point that license plates are there for id purposes only. And while I don't see 'IRISH' as offensive, I can see why they don't do it. One exception to the rule is not allowed in the Supreme Court.

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Old 03-16-2002, 02:06 AM   #4
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I want a vanity plate!

mebbe a real original one like SULA U2.

*wonders if it could possibly be construed as offensive*
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Old 03-16-2002, 02:12 AM   #5
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Old 03-16-2002, 02:26 AM   #6
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[This message has been edited by Lemonite (edited 03-15-2002).]
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Old 03-16-2002, 11:00 PM   #7
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Originally posted by Achtung Bubba:

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Old 03-17-2002, 02:34 AM   #8
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Too bad "ITLNBTCH" has two too many letters in it.

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Old 03-17-2002, 05:48 AM   #9
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We have those laws too, but stuffed if I can work out what they consider offensive.

We supposedly cant use words like God and Sex. Yet I saw this plate once that was GODSY. Yet a few years ago a radio station did a shit stir phone call to the RTA saying they wanted a plate with GODLY on it and she said you cant have that.
A while back, I saw this XR6, same year as mine with SEXR6. After laughing at what a tool he was, I wondered how he got it, and checked recently with the RTA site and it said SEXR8 (for my model) was available and suitable, would I like to order it.
Go figure.
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Old 03-20-2002, 07:29 PM   #10
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I saw this one in the parking lot of a mall:
I think I'd like 666IRS!

Look...look what you've done to me...You've made me poor and infamous, and I thank you...

My name is MISS MACPHISTO...I'm tired and i want to go HOME...

"Well you tell...Bonovista,that i said hello and that my codename is Belleview" - Bono before opening night of Anaheim Elevation concert

Well tonight thank God it's them, instead of you...
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Old 03-20-2002, 07:40 PM   #11
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The Smoking Gun has a whole section devoted to the banned vanity plate controversy including letters that various motor vehicle departments have received from other drivers who are offended by plates they've seen on the road. I never knew you could get a vanity plate that was only offensive if you read it from your rear-view mirror, for example EMWOLB (an actual plate)
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Old 03-20-2002, 10:38 PM   #12
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New York state allowed my family to have Red Sox logo "FNWYPK" and "NOMAH", so I don't see why GO Red Sox or Go Yanks wouldn't work except it might be too many letters depending on the specific plates. I've also seen someone in town with the Red Sox logo and "CURSED". I just think it's fun to be creative.

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