The world of specialty license plates is a complicated intersection of private douchbaggery and governmental robbery. Why do we even have to pay for a license and registration? The government shouldn't be jacking people with a hidden tax — a hidden regressive tax that hits poor people harder than the rich — for the "privilege" of complying with the government's own requirements.
Meanwhile, if the car is an outward, rolling expression of your inner self, then the vanity license plate is the part of yourself that is an ass. The level of narcissism it takes to tell people stuck behind you on the Major Deegan that you "LVB00B$" is astounding.
The government should either get out of the charge-for-plates business, OR they should give everybody the same freedom you get when you sign up for Gmail. If Nigerian princes can find me over email easily enough, then surely the state trooper can run "em1@NYS" when he pulls me over.
Otherwise, we end up with Texas. Like every state, Texas is in the business of issuing specialty license plates to certain groups — for a fee of course. But not every group gets to play because a license plate is "government speech" that can be viewed as an endorsement of what appears on the plate. So Texas has to pick and choose who gets a plate and who does not. And that makes dumb assholes get all worried about their "free speech" rights to say "IH8YOU" on a license plate that appears above their truck nutz so you can see it after you've been Coal Rolled.
Speaking of dumb assholes, the Son of Confederate Veterans (SCV) applied for a specialty, Confederate Flag plate in Texas. Texas denied the request, and unlike their ancestors, the group sued instead of rebelling. A federal judge ruled in favor of Texas, calling the restriction a "reasonable, content-based regulation of private speech." But yesterday the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals called the ban an unconstitutional restriction on speech.
From Courthouse News Service:
"In explaining its denial of Texas SCV's application, the Board stated it denied the plate, 'specifically the confederate flag portion of the design, because public comments have shown that many members of the general public find the design offensive,'" Judge Edward Prado wrote for the majority in New Orleans. "By rejecting the plate because it was offensive, the board discriminated against Texas SCV's view that the Confederate flag is a symbol of sacrifice, independence, and Southern heritage. The board's decision implicitly dismissed that perspective and instead credited the view that the Confederate flag is an inflammatory symbol of hate and oppression."
Prado cited the state's history of approving plates for veterans of other wars as further proof of viewpoint discrimination.
Yes, because the flag of a nation that REBELLED AGAINST AMERICA is just the same as honoring veterans who fought FOR America.
Whatever, debating the offensiveness of the Confederate Flag is pointless. If riding around like the Dukes of Hazzard is more important to you than potentially offending entire races of people, knock yourself out.
But painting your car to look like the General Lee is private speech. Forcing the government to issue you a specific license plate isn't. Think about it: the government is going to have to make these license plates. There is going to be some prisoner in Texas, one who might even be black, who is going to have to emboss a Confederate Flag on something to earn his "yard time." The government has their hands all over this.
But nine other states, all Southern, already make these types of specialty plates. Again, my answer here is get the government OUT of the business of issuing specialty plates. There is a ton of surface area on a car with which to express yourself. The license plate is the fine print of the car. It doesn't have to be bedazzled. It can just be there.
If the government wasn't so eager to take money from narcissistic idiots, it wouldn't be in the position of having to pick and choose which offensive statements to sanction.