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Maine Is Reconsidering License Plate 'Wild West'

F-bombs, references to sex acts are currently allowed
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 4, 2021 5:12 PM CDT
Maine Rethinks Decision to Stop Vetting Vanity Plates
One of the only current restrictions is a ban on "language that encourages violence."   (Maine DMV)

Based on crude license plate messages, one may be forgiven for assuming Maine doesn’t give two flips about obscenities. Secretary of State Shenna Bellows wants to change that. Bellows, a former director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, testified Tuesday in support of several bills to rein in the wild west that ensued when the state ended the vetting process for license plates in 2015. From Fort Kent to Kittery, there are now all matter of obscenities including straight-up f-bombs and references to anatomy and sex acts adorning license plates issued for cars and trucks, the AP reports. Before 2015, state law allowed Maine’s secretary of state to reject vanity plates that contained “obscene, contemptuous, profane, or prejudicial” messages."

"The First Amendment protects your right to have any bumper sticker you want, but it doesn’t force the state to issue you a registration plate that subjects every child in your neighborhood to a message the government wouldn’t allow them to see in a movie theater," Bellows told the Legislature's Transportation Committee. She says Mainers have a right to freedom of expression, but license plates are state property and that the state can regulate them. Bills before the committee would reestablish a review process, allow the secretary of state to reject vulgar license plates, and allow the recall of offensive license plates that already have been issued. (North Carolina is no longer issuing Confederate license plates.)

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