ATLANTA (TheBlaze/AP) — An Atlanta man is suing the Georgia Department of Driver Services, contending that his rights were violated when the state rejected his application for vanity plates making reference to his sexual orientation.
James Cyrus Gilbert maintains in the lawsuit that state officials rejected his application for the tags 4GAYLIB, GAYPWR and GAYGUY.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that all three vanity plates are on the list of vanity plates banned by the state, although the state has approved plates expressing some political or religious expressions.
Gilbert said he wasn’t asking for a plate that was vulgar or “over the top.”
“Denying someone the right to put gay on their tag, that’s political,” he said. “If I want I could get a tag that said straight man, but because it had gay on it, it’s not available.”
The Journal-Constitution has more about the debate surrounding vanity plates — one that is complex, with the rules governing the messaging somewhat unclear:
Most of the tags the state has banned are vulgar or hateful. But also on the list are some religious, philosophical and political expressions the state has deemed unsuitable to appear on motor vehicles.
In addition, an AJC analysis of banned and approved vanity plates found the difference between 10,214 banned tags and the 91,151 accepted tags is sometimes ridiculously ambiguous. […]
…Department of Revenue officials have acknowledged in the past that the process of approving vanity plates is inconsistent. State officials approved HATERS, but denied HATERS1. They approved BLKBERI, BLKCHRY and BLCBUTI, but denied BLKACE.
The inconsistency is the result of many different people with differing views making decisions on what is offensive, a Department of Revenue spokesman told the AJC.
Gilbet and his lawyer, Cynthia Counts, argue that there has been “viewpoint discrimination” based upon his sexuality. While plates involving gay themes have been shunned, others that reflect a more conservative worldview like JESUS4U have apparently been accepted.
“I think it’s pretty clear the statute has been applied arbitrary without regard to any state interest,” said Counts. “And the restrictions have reflected viewpoint discrimination and that alone should be fatal.”
Representatives of the state Attorney General’s office, Georgia Department of Driver Services and the Department of Revenue, the agency that administers vanity plates, declined to comment on the lawsuit.