Georgia! It's a bastion of decency and morality nestled deep within the Bible Belt. And for that reason, state officials can't let people drive around with whatever they want on their vanity license plates. Of course not! Such brazen displays of impropriety could upset people and cause them to riot in the streets.
For this reason, the State of Georgia not only rejects many vanity plates that could be construed as offensive (as do many states), but they also maintain a database (search it here) of all the plates they turned down.
The rejected plate database is incredibly revealing. It turns out that in Georgia, your license plate cannot be MYPOOP, UPOOP, 0PHUCK, 2FXXY4U, GAYSEX, AIRGASM, HATERS1 or my personal favorite, 4NIKK8.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution compiled the database for a story they published today. What they found is that the state rejects license plates on an almost arbitrary basis, allowing some risqué plates but banning very similar ones.
The newspaper found that State Department of Revenue staff nixed "G0DROKS, G0DWH0, ILUVGUNS, GAYPWR and FEMM," but allowed "G0D4EVR, GUNLUV, GAYGAY and FEMFTAL." What's the deal?
It gets even more ridiculous:
G0TBEER? Not in Georgia. L0VWINE? Go for it. BELLY? Yay. UTERUS? Nay. 44JESUS? Sure. 5JESUS? Absolutely not. ENGLAND, GERMAN, SAUDIA and SYRIA? Not offensive. IRAQ and IRAN2? Offensive.
Georgia law says that so-called "prestige plates" can't have profanity, obscene language, or text that "ridicules a person, group, or religious belief or being, race or ethnicity," according to the paper. But the law offers little guidance otherwise, so what plate you have depends on the tastes of the person involved in the reviewing process.
One of the AJC article's more interesting points is that while vanity plates are a nice little moneymaker for states — Georgia raked in $2.3 million in the last fiscal year through special tag fees — states get into murky constitutional free speech issues when they ban certain plates and not others. Georgia hasn't been sued yet, but other states have and have lost. From the story:
In December, a U.S. District Court judge ruled a North Carolina plan to offer license plates with a pro-life background unconstitutional. Because the state did not plan to offer a pro-choice license plate, the court ruled the state's plan would favor one political viewpoint over another.
In 2010, a federal appeals court ruled Vermont's practice of banning all religious speech on license plates unconstitutional. The court held that allowing secular expressions, like Carpe Diem, but not religious expressions favored secular speech.
So maybe it's only a matter of time before someone gets butthurt over a rejected plate and decides to sue the state. Who knows, the plate in question could be BUTTHURT for all we know.
Your turn. Search through the rejected plate database and see if you can find the most ridiculous one, then post it in the comments. I think AIRGASM could be tough to beat, though.
Hat tip to DannyO!