Which tags are too vulgar or offensive for the State of Georgia to issue? For example some rejected tags are: EROTIKA and FOXIE 1. Also in order to defend religious, philosophical and political expression the State has also rejected to okay: GODROCKS, GODWHO, ILUVGUNS, and GAYPWR.
So how do the employees at the Georgia Department of Revenue decide which tags to allow? Well, they rely on the Georgia Statute that regulates “prestige plates.” The law does not allow language that the community considers obscene, language that ridicules a person, group, religious belief, race/ethnicity or profanity.
There are over 90,000 vanity or prestige tags issued in Georgia. Over 10,000 have been rejected or banned by the state. The Atlanta Constitution’s article on this subject gave some good examples, “The Department doesn’t like HVYGUNS but 1BIGGUN is fine. GOTBEER? Not in Georgia. LOVWINE? Go for it. BELLY? Yay. UTERUS? Nay. 44JESUS? Sure. 5JESUS? Absolutely not. ENGLAND, SAUDIA & SYRIA? Not offensive. IRAQ and IRAN2? Offensive.”
If an offensive plate slips through and onto the roads the State can revoke the tag when they are told about them – usually by an offended driver.
Are vanity plates worth the trouble? The specialty tag fee added to the State’s coffers – $2.3 million in the previous fiscal year. However, this may not be enough to outweigh the legal costs if the State is ever sued on free speech grounds.
Other States have been sued on free speech grounds and lost – because North Carolina planned to offer a pro-life tag and not a pro-choice tag as well, a U.S. District Judge found the tag was unconstitutional. The theory was the State would be favoring one political viewpoint over another. Vermont banned all religious speech and the Federal Appeals Court found this practice unconstitutional. The Court found that this would favor secular speech over religious expression.
Is Georgia’s law and helter skelter approval process legal? – We’ll see – it hasn’t been challenged in court – yet!