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Alabama issued man 'LGBF JB' license plate. Now it's demanding it back after calling it 'objectionable.'

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

An Alabama man is considering First Amendment redress after state officials demanded he surrender a state-issued license plate that pays homage to the "Let's Go Brandon" phenomenon.

What are the details?

Nathan Kirk, from the north-central Alabama town of Oneonta, purchased a new Ford-150 King Ranch truck in October 2021, and he decided to get a personalized license plate when registering his new wheels with the state.

Kirk chose a yellow plate that resembles the Gadsden flag. The text reads, "LGBF JB," which stands for, "Let's Go Brandon, F*** Joe Biden." Kirk told Al.com that he paid $700 for the personalized tag.

After receiving the tag last month, Kirk received a letter from the Alabama Department of Revenue, Motor Vehicle Division claiming his new license plate "contains objectionable language" that the agency considers "offensive to the peace and dignity of the State of Alabama," the Trussville Tribune reported.

The letter also demanded he surrender the license plate within 10 days, or he would lose his vehicle registration and begin incurring fines because of a suspended vehicle registration.

What is Kirk saying?

Kirk is accusing the state of trampling on his First Amendment right to free expression, especially considering the license plate is just a series of letters open to interpretation.

"It’s been on the road for a month, and it was approved a long time ago; it was approved immediately when I bought it," Kirk told the Trussville Tribune. "They didn’t have any issue, taking the six or $700 it cost from me."

"It’s 100 percent suppression of First Amendment rights," he added. "It could stand for anything; I just kind of like those letters. I could get the letters FFFFFF, and it could stand for anything."

In another interview with Al.com, Kirk added, "My point is, it’s letters. It could be my kid’s initials. It could be my grandmother or grandfather. It’s just letters. It doesn’t spell anything."

"Nothing about it is right," Kirk said. "Someone at Montgomery, I’m assuming, doesn’t like it, and now they’re throwing a fit."

Can Alabama take the plate?

The state has done it before.

The issue of license plates in Alabama made headlines in 2014 after the state issued a personalized plate that read "NOHOMO." After social media outrage, the state revoked the plate, and blamed "human error" for allowing the plate to be approved in the first place.

Alabama has an appeal process for citizens like Kirk, but he may also have a legitimate legal case. Federal judges, in fact, have repeatedly ruled that personalized license plates with messages that some people find objectionable are protected by the First Amendment.

However, the Supreme Court has also ruled that license plates are government speech, making them subject to government-imposed restrictions of expression.

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