Maine cracks down on hundreds of vulgar vanity license plates

A Maine vegan whose customized license plate comprises the phrase “tofu” is without doubt one of the motorists caught in a state crackdown on vulgar license plates.

Automotive homeowners throughout the US pays an additional price to customise license plates, sparking creativity and persona however inflicting complications for state officers who should determine what’s acceptable.

Maine had for a number of years allowed folks to place nearly any mixture of letters and numbers on their car plates, together with phrases and phrases that different states would ban. However the state determined to alter course and this 12 months recalled 274 plates it deemed inappropriate.

Some persons are combating again.

To this point the state has rejected all the appeals, together with one introduced by the vegan whose license plate referenced tofu.

The state concluded the license plate “LUVTOFU” may’ve been seen as a reference to intercourse as an alternative of admiration for bean curd. The motorist insisted there was no mistaking his intent as a result of the again of his automobile had a number of tofu-related stickers.

“It’s my protest towards consuming meat and animal merchandise,” Peter Starostecki, the upset motorist, mentioned after a zoom session with a listening to examiner for the Maine Bureau of Motor Automobiles.

Heather Libby and her greatest good friend grudgingly gave up their matching license plates that contained a phrase for a feminine canine.

“Persons are so delicate these days,” mentioned Libby, of Jonesport, after a listening to examiner rejected her attraction. “I simply assume it’s silly.”

When the state successfully ended the overview course of for so-called “vainness” license plates in 2015, some residents obtained their plates with all method of profanities, together with F-bombs, both spelled out or abbreviated.

Residents in a state identified for being laconic and even-tempered quickly had been sporting uncensored plates pairing the F-word with “snow,” “haters,” and “ALS,” — the incurable nerodegenerative illness.

After license plate freedoms spiraled uncontrolled, the Maine Legislature directed the Bureau of Motor Automobiles to reestablish a system for vetting the state’s roughly 120,000 vainness license plates.

The brand new guidelines ban derogatory references to age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender id, nationwide origin, faith or incapacity. Additionally banned is language that incite violence, or is taken into account obscene.

Restored as censors, Maine’s vehicular officers now stroll an identical tightrope as their colleagues in different states.

In 2020, a federal decide dominated California’s ban on plates which are “offensive to good style and decency” was overly broad, and violated constitutional rights to free speech. Earlier this 12 months, Texas officers rejected a license plate much like Starostecki’s — “LVTOFU” — resulting in rebuke from an animal rights group.

Maine’s guidelines had been narrowly crafted to cross authorized muster, officers mentioned.

Secretary of State Shenna Bellows mentioned motorists have the liberty to precise themselves, however she mentioned that they need to do it on a bumper sticker, not a state-issued license plate.

“We’ve got a public curiosity in preserving phrases and phrases which are profane or might incite violence off the roadways,” she mentioned.

She mentioned she’s completely satisfied that almost all motorists have relinquished their objectionable license plates with no battle. To this point, there have been solely 13 appeals, however there might be extra.

If a motorist loses an attraction to a listening to examiner, then they will sue in Superior Court docket. To this point, nobody has taken that step.

As for Starostecki, he was provided one other license plate that had develop into obtainable, V3GAN. However he determined he was executed with vainness plates. He’s awaiting a brand new license plate — a boring one randomly chosen by the state.

Libby, who misplaced her B-word plate, bought a customized plate celebrating her canine Zeus, named for the legendary god of thunder. “That might be offensive to somebody as a result of it’s a Greek god,” she quipped. “However I hope not.”

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