Offensive License Plates Are Free Speech, Court Tells California

Great news!  You can be as offensive as you want by buying a personalized license plat from the DMV.  Of course a license plate is not as offensive as, say, closing churches, killing jobs and ending educational opportunities for millions?  That is truly offensive.

“Thanks to the First Amendment, the state of California can’t ban residents from vanity license plate messages that it deems “offensive to good taste and decency.” A federal court ruled Tuesday that the state rule was an unconstitutional restriction on free expression.

The case against the California Department of Motor Vehicles—heard by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California— was brought by five people who were told their choices of vanity plate messages were off-limits. The five plaintiffs were represented by the libertarian law firm Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF).

“Vague bans on offensive speech allow bureaucrats to inject their subjective preferences and undermine the rule of law,” said PLF’s Wen Fa in a statement. “

This is the same State government that does not find it offensive to   deny the Constitution and take away our legal rights.  It is offensive that the Guv closes our churches because you could die in prayer—while supporting the abortion of thousands of babies of color, a racist act.

Offensive License Plates Are Free Speech, Court Tells California

Elizabeth Nolan Brown, Reason,   11/25/20 

QUEER, SLAAYRR license plates are OK, says judge. Thanks to the First Amendment, the state of California can’t ban residents from vanity license plate messages that it deems “offensive to good taste and decency.” A federal court ruled Tuesday that the state rule was an unconstitutional restriction on free expression.

The case against the California Department of Motor Vehicles—heard by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California— was brought by five people who were told their choices of vanity plate messages were off-limits. The five plaintiffs were represented by the libertarian law firm Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF).

“Vague bans on offensive speech allow bureaucrats to inject their subjective preferences and undermine the rule of law,” said PLF’s Wen Fa in a statement.

One of the people who filed the suit is a gay man who owns a record company called Queer Folks Records. He was originally told that he couldn’t get a license plate saying QUEER because it was an insult.

Another plaintiff—who loves the band Slayer—was denied a SLAAYRR license plate because the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) said the message was “threatening, aggressive or hostile.”

The DMV told plaintiff Paul Ogilvie that he couldn’t get a plate combining the first letters of his last name and his favorite animal— OGWOOLF—because OG can be slang for original gangster.

Another plaintiff was denied DUK N A plate because the DMV said it sounded too much like an obscene phrase, even if it wasn’t itself obscene. And BO11LUX (which looks to me like a play on the exclamation “Bollocks!”) was declared by the DMV to be too sexual.

But U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar sided with the plaintiffs, saying the state’s ban on plate messages with “connotations offensive to good taste and decency” is unconstitutional.

Tigar pointed to a recent Supreme Court ruling in favor of the band The Slants, who won a fight with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office over their name.

“Tigar did say the DMV could probably be permitted to deny plates that are, for instance, obscene, profane or contain hate speech because they fall outside of First Amendment protections,” notes the Associated Press.

You can read the judge’s full ruling here. The case is Ogilvie v. Gordon.

About Stephen Frank

Stephen Frank is the publisher and editor of California Political News and Views. He speaks all over California and appears as a guest on several radio shows each week. He has also served as a guest host on radio talk shows. He is a fulltime political consultant.

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