Vanity plates live to fight another day after Federal Judge overrules California
G00D N3WS! You can now use the 'CH€€$E' vanity plate you've always wanted
A few days ago, a federal judge ruled in favor of five Californians, represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation, who had filed a lawsuit against California Department of Motor Vehicles Director Steve Gordon back in March. The bone of contention was the DMV's decision to ban these five citizens from using vanity plates on their cars because they were considered "offensive to good taste and decency".
However, U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar said the California's ban was unfair because it violated the applicants' freedom of speech based on the subjective notions of good taste of a state official. The Judge also added that messages on license plates are indeed considered public speech - not government speech - and are therefore protected by the First Amendment, which can be only restricted in specific circumstances, hate speech or substantial threats for example.
The ruling cited a 2017 Supreme Court precedent in which an Asian-American rock band was eventually allowed to use the name The Slants, and another precedent in Kentucky where the Transportation Cabinet's denial of a vanity plate reading 'IM GOD' was also overruled.
So what are the plates in question? A fan of the rock band Slayer who wanted to use the plate 'SLAAYR', a gay man in Oakland who owns Queer Folks Records and wanted to use a plate reading 'QUEER', an Army veteran who wanted to use 'OGWOOLF' and two more who wanted to use plates that, according to the DMV, might look or sound like a swear word.
I find this fascinating. The ability to use vanity plates on your car depends entirely on where you live. In several European countries, for example, it's very hard to do simply because the plates have to adhere to a specific layout, letter-letter-number-number-number, for example, whereas in the US there's no such restriction. So that's it, my mind's made up, I'm gonna move to Wisconsin, buy a truck and have 'CH€€$E' on my number plate.