plate debate

Why Won’t Indiana Let This Gay Youth Group Have Its Own License Plate?

Before Keith Kimmel died in March, he took one of his pet causes to court: demanding Oklahoma grant him a license plate that read “IM GAY.” Now a gay Indiana youth group is attempting something similar in their own state, but not just with one license plate.

The Indiana Youth Group says it’s twice been denied a request to create a special license plate, something that some 78 other organizations — like those supporting breast cancer awareness, juvenile diabetes research, and the Special Olympics — are afforded. So they’re suing, filing a lawsuit in federal court claiming Indiana’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles uses arbitrary (and unconstitutional) guidelines for deciding which parties get plates.

The group’s lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, claims the BMV uses no clear standards to evaluate plates, instead giving unilateral discretion to the agency. Such discretion, the lawsuit states, runs afoul of the First Amendment.

BMV spokesman Dennis Rosebrough said the process is open and fair to all applicants. Although there is some subjectivity when it comes to deciding whether a group’s request is in the “public interest,” he said, the criteria are clearly laid out. “The whole manual is on our website,” he said. “It’s very explicit as to what the criteria are.” Rosebrough said the Indiana Youth Group was turned down because it failed to provide evidence that its services have a statewide impact and because it planned to use the license plate funds to pay staff salaries. The money, he said, cannot be used for operating expenses.

Byrne said that explanation never reached her, despite several phone calls and conversations with BMV representatives.

Worth noting: Indiana Youth Group isn’t the only organization refused specialty plates. The Marine Corps League, the Indiana Bicycle Coalition, and the Alzheimer’s Association have all been denied. But BMV has dipped its toes in, ahem, “controversial” issues before. In 2006, it approved a plate that read “”Choose Life” from the Indiana Association of Pregnancy Centers, which lobbies women to skip abortion and give their children up for adoption instead.

The real fear here, of course, is that Indiana Youth Group is asking a state office to get involved in sexuality, which of course means putting veritable images of a penis in a butt on cars all over the state! There is another option for drivers to declare their support for gays: Buy a Subaru. Or a Rav-4.

[Indianapolis Star]