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Georgia Man Sues To Get GAYPWR License Plate

By Daniel Villarreal

A 1968 Georgia "community standards" law makes it so you can get a personalized license plate that says MYPOON but not one that says 4GAYLIB because one is considered "obscene" and the other is not.

If that makes no sense to you, you should talk with James Cyrus Gilbert III.

He and his lawyer are suing the state of Georgia for refusing to issue him personalized license plates with the words GAYGUY, GAYPWR or 4GAYLIB on them.

You see, the 1968 law forbids any license plate that contains “language, a message, or material considered to be obscene according to current community standards." And as such, Mr. Gilbert's gay license plates ran afoul of the 10,217 license plate messages banned by Georgia's Department of Driver Services.

“It’s not like I was asking for something that was vulgar or over the top,” Gilbert told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “Denying someone the right to put gay on their tag, that’s political. If I want I could get a tag that said straight man, but because it had gay on it, it’s not available.”

His lawyer, Cynthia Counts says “I think it’s pretty clear the statute has been applied arbitrary without regard to any state interest,” and adds that by denying GAYPWR while allowing other plates like JESUS4U, the state "is favoring one political belief or philosophy over another."

Thus, the fight over a small gay license plate has turned into a larger battle over the first amendment's guarantee of free speech.

Now Gilbert is suing to get his requested vanity plates approved and to strike down the 1968 license plate law. It may seem petty, but Gerry Weber — an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer working on Gilbert's case — feels differently:

“Really these license plates are one of the primary ways Georgians use free speech," Weber said. "Not many Georgians go to rallies, but thousands of Georgians express themselves through these license plates. Think about how many people over the course of a year see your license plate. That’s a huge audience.”

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