The Utah Division of Motor Vehicles lists standards for vanity plates, based on a statute that “forbids any combination of letters or numbers that ‘may carry connotations offensive to good taste and decency or that would be misleading.’”
Plate letter and number combinations that reference drugs, that are “sexual, vulgar, or derogatory,” that suggest ideas “dangerous to public welfare” or disrespect “race, religion, deity, ethnic heritage, gender, or political affiliation,” are not permitted.
Thus it was that Utah high school English teacher Matt Pacenza, driving home, spied a vanity plate reading “DEPORTM.” As a concerned citizen, he snapped a photo of the personalized plate and posted it to Twitter. (Note: I’m more concerned about drivers taking photos while operating their motor vehicles than about what their plates say, but I’m weird, or so I’m told). The resulting cocial media comments attracted the attention of some state senators as well as the Utah State Tax Commission, which oversees license plate approval. Now the commission says it is reviewing whether the plate violates department guidelines.
Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the weekend is…
Is there anything wrong with having that license plate on your car?
As a citizen of the state that issues more vanity plates than any other, I have the following comments:
- Tell me which of the standards the plate above allegedly violates.
- How big an officious intermeddling jerk do you have to be to set out to make an issue over someone’s non-obscene, ambiguous vanity plate?
- I was serious about the snap-shot: Matt Pacenza should be cited for reckless driving.
- A vanity plate owner should get the benefit of the doubt. “DEPORTM” means to me, deport people who should be deported: under our laws, that means illegal immigrants. Ergo the plate means NFORCIT, as in “enforce the law.” Would that plate bother Matt?
- What is the “race, religion, deity, ethnic heritage, gender, or political affiliation” being disrespected by the plate? I don’t see one.
- I’d be perfectly happy to see vanity plates banned, ending this nonsense forever. If states are going to permit them (and earn the extra revenue generated by the kind of people who want them and don’t get me started on that), however, they had better avoid viewpoint censorship, and that’s what banning this plate would be.
Finally, if you find yourself being outraged because you disagree with what you think a license plate might be saying, you, not the plate, are the problem.
Do you think BITEME1 would be an acceptable plate in Utah? Would Matt be triggered?
Here’s Twitter link that will allow you to post this to Facebook: https://twitter.com/CaptCompliance/status/1216303453733113857