Removing obscenities from vanity plates will take time


By David Sharp - Associated Press



Removing the flipping obscenities from license plates on Maine’s roads and highways isn’t going to happen overnight, even though a law banning such profanities in a state where such regulation has been unusually lax goes into effect Monday.

Currently, there are license plates with salty language including f-bombs, references to anatomy and sex acts, and general insults. One license plate says simply, “F—-Y0U” — except that on the plate, it’s plainly spelled out.

Now, rule-making is getting underway to ensure the law protects First Amendment rights while getting rid of obscene language.

The process, which includes public comment, could take between two to four months, Secretary of State Shenna Bellows said.

Requests for so-called vanity license plates that are deemed to be potentially offensive will be on hold in the meantime. Eventually, the state will begin recalling previously issued plates, likely this winter.

“Rule-making will delay the process of active removal of plates from the road but will help us balance the free speech rights of citizens and the public interest of removing inappropriate license plates,” she said.

A majority of states have restrictions on license plate messages that are considered profane, sexually suggestive, racist, drug related, politically objectionable or religiously offensive.

But Maine became the “wild, wild, wild west of vanity license plates” when the state dropped its review process in 2015. “Our anything-goes approach was unusual,” Bellows said.

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By David Sharp

Associated Press

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