An Atlantan man was denied his 1st, 2nd, AND 3rd choices for his vanity plate. James Cyrus Gilbert III wanted his vanity plate to read 4GAYLIB, GAYPWR, or GAYGUY. State officials denied his request saying none of those were available. Gilbert thought that sounded a little suspicious, so he got a lawyer.
Not so surprisingly, it's not that someone else has those three plates, it's that the Georgia's Department of Driver Services verboten vanity plate words that contain language, a message, or material considered to be "obscene according to current community standards." The list means no obscene or defamatory words against a person, group, religion, race or ethnicity can be on a vanity plate.
However, Gilbert and his lawyer argue that gay is not a defamatory word, and neither it is obscene. In his complaint, Gilbert says that application of the statue is "arbitrary and capricious and chills speech protected by the First Amendment."
The New York Daily News reports:
For example, the list of 10,214 banned tags contains 1JESUS, 1GOD1, IRAQ and 2BUDDA, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
GOTBEER is banned, but L0VWINE is okay. HVYGUNS is not allowed in Georgia, but 1BIGGUN is. HATERS is fine, but HATERS1? No way.
Some plates that publicize religion affiliation are fine, but others are not. 44JESUS? Go ahead. But 5JESUS would be denied.
If you have some time, the list of rejected plates is pretty crazy. If you don't have the time, let's just say that nobody in Georgia is getting a plate that reads 0VARY anytime soon.
"It's not like I was asking for something that was vulgar or over the top," Gilbert told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. "Denying someone the right to put gay on their tag, that's political. If I want I could get a tag that said straight man, but because it had gay on it, it's not available."
Yeah, that's total bullshit.
There has to be a better way to do this, but if there's a clear answer, it eludes me. You can have a list of obviously banned words, but many words that aren't slurs can be combined with other words to create an offensive term. For example, I'm totally okay with GAYGUY, but I'm not so cool with GAYH8R. How do you monitor this stuff when the people making the final decision might carry their own prejudices? Do you establish a committee? For vanity plates?
(For the record, if I had a vanity plate, it would absolutely be BIGFUN. Martha Dunnstock forever!)