“Dirty” language is one step closer to being removed in Maine

Jason Weiland

Do you have a vanity license plate in Maine that may have questionable or offensive language? Well, &%$&, it’s one step closer to being removed from the roads.

Maine's Secretary of State released draft rules on Thursday that would eliminate references to genitalia, profanity, and sex acts on vanity license plates after the state loosened restrictions in 2015. The rough language on these vehicles led to numerous complaints from citizens and was too much even for, as AP News reports, “a secretary of state who previously served as director of American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, which has fought for First Amendment rights to freedom of expression.”

Secretary of State Shenna Bellows says in a statement, “Incitement to violence, profanity, ethnic, racial, religious, or other slurs, or reference to illegal or criminal activity – all of which unfortunately can be seen on Maine registration plates today – are all directly contrary to the public interest.”

The state has been balancing on a delicate tightrope ever since. AP News said that Maine’s rules had to be “narrowly tailored,” because a 2020 California ban on vanity license plates couldn’t be enforced.

But something had to be done.

The draft rules, released by the secretary of state would forbid the public “license plates that falsely suggest an association with a government agency; encourage violence or unlawful activities; attack race or religion; suggest genitalia or sex acts; or represent profane or obscene language.”

A public hearing on the matter is scheduled for later in May, but under new rules, the state wants a system for a citizen motorist to appeal to the state if a vanity plate was rejected because of objectionable language.

People took advantage of the review process for vanity plates after it was dropped in 2015.

According to the deputy secretary of state overseeing the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, Cathie Curtis, the raw and insulting language has cropped up on the roads and the offending plates routinely elicited complaints from the public.

In a state with over 1.3 million residents, it is unclear how many offending Vanity License Plates are currently cruising around on the roads in Maine – previously the state estimated hundreds.

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