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Editorial: On license plates, time to loosen up

When the state Supreme Court ruled two months ago that David Montenegro was unconstitutionally denied his “COPSLIE” vanity license plates, casual onlookers might have thought the case was settled. After all, the court held that the state Division of Motor Vehicles couldn’t deny a plate because “a reasonable person would find (it) offensive to good taste.” Done and done.

Unfortunately, the division is dragging its feet in response, denying all vanity plate applications for now and working on a set of rules that seem to pose the same challenges as the previous one.

According to reporting from the Valley News, the DMV responded to the ruling by drafting a set of interim rules for vanity plates. The Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules approved those rules June 20, but the division hasn’t yet adopted them.

In the meantime, residents with the most innocuous messages imaginable – LUVDOGS, let’s say – have to wait. That seems unfair and petty, especially given that it was the division enforcing an unconstitutional rule in the first place.

And those new rules gives us pause. Again, according to the Valley News, the DMV “would prohibit language related to sex, violence, drugs, gangs or bigotry” on vanity plates.

In nearly all of these cases, the room for interpretation seems vast.

Is the plate “SXYLDY,” for instance, related to sex? Is “GUNOWNR” related to violence? How about “MEDWEED” on the car of a medicinal marijuana user? That’s surely related to drugs, right?

In each of the cases above, a division employee could reasonably deny the imagined plates. And this seems a shame for all of the SXYLDYs and GUNOWNRs out there.

We do believe that some words and messages should be barred from license plates. Curse words and overt hate speech come to mind. In each case, license plates bearing such messages could pose public safety problems. A particularly crude profanity could prove distracting in traffic. While drivers have been known to verbally share such messages, they probably shouldn’t be preserved permanently.

And hateful messages based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or other such statuses shouldn’t be allowed either. While they might not distract drivers in traffic, they could lead to disturbances and altercations once drivers are parked.

Frankly, it is difficult to imagine that many residents would want to be associated with such a message to begin with.

But beyond these narrow exceptions, we’re not sure what purpose the DMV’s persnickety rule-making on vanity plates serves.

Surely it is better that the government take as much of a hands-off approach as possible when dealing with its citizens’ speech.

A state that trumpets “Live Free or Die” on its license plates can surely afford its citizens the right to choose the messages those plates bear.

Legacy Comments14

Never been a big fan of the DMV and their brand of autocratic rules. This case was really stupid, should have given him the plate when he applied. After all everyone would interpret as meaning "I'm a dumb xxx" As an after thought from a previous reply. This is the type of local news that is worth commenting on. I don't need to read the same thing here that is covered to death by all other news media.

The real news is that the economy SHRANK a historical 2.9% and the editorial is on license plates . Good to see the CM is keeping its LIDV readers right where they want them

Let's see, buddy boy, one quarter of GDP shrinkage which virtually all analysts attribute to the brutal weather last winter. This is just like your frequent reference to increased sea ice area, when volume is the number that matters (I'd be happy to find a geometry tutor for you if you like). Welcome to the world of cherry-picked stats!

Hey BPR! Looks like you have a "buddy"

They call them "stalkers" now

silly boy - Canada had a positive 1.6% growth... and the same weather - only liberals believe the cold baloney - Nice try - as for your baloney on sea ice read this HEADLINE : America’s National Snow And Ice Data Center, which is funded by Nasa, revealed that ice around the southern continent covers about 16million sq km, more than 2.1 million more than is usual for the time of year. It is by far the highest level since satellite observations on which the figures depend began in 1979. In statistical terms, the extent of the ice cover is ....... hugely significant.

must be awful to be a LIDV -

Good editorial. I'm curious about the revenue vanity plates generate for the state and where that lost revenue would come from if those plates were eliminated. I've seen many, very creative and thoughtful plates that just make you smile when you read them. However, there will always be a segment of society, as Mr. Kjellman wrote, who will not take responsibility for their own actions and blame whatever has happened to them on someone else.

The Founding Father must be rolling in their graves when too many people in this country seem to think the best way to assert their right to freedom of speech is to do the lazy thing and put a couple of letters on a car's vanity plate.

The Founding Father(s) are definitely rolling in their graves as they see belief in something higher being denigrated at every turn, same sex marriage, killing of fetuses and Obama betraying this country at every turn. I don't think letters on a license plate would really bother them.

GDP decreased by a historical 2.9% - it goes unreported in the CM. IRS mysteriously loses 2 years of critical e-mails and the CM chooses not to editorialize on that. Recent Polls show a disaster for NObama and the democrats and the CM does noes not report. Massive scandals by democrats and NObama go unreported and no editorials - The CM CHOOSES to write this worthless editorial - Now you know the massive bias of the CM that leads to so may LIDV's

Nice try by the toxic twins, hijacking yet another completely unrelated article to spew their biased brand of out of context rants.

Perhaps the simplest way to deal with this issue is to eliminate vanity plates altogether.

It's time to stop all censoring of vanity plates. When I see a plate like "COPSLIE" I understand that not every cop in every instance has been 100% truthful, but I also know most cops can be trusted. So I figure the person with the plate has a little trouble dealing with reality in his or her own life. It's kind of like wearing a badge saying "I'm a bit wacko." I judge them accordingly.

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