Maine begins its removal of obscene vanity license plates



The state of Maine is starting its process of removing the vulgarities and obscenities from license plates. The Associated Press reports that Maine began issuing recall letters to folks with newly unapproved license plates this month. Reportedly, a handful of letters are going out each day, and Maine says the whole process of letter sending will take a couple of months.

This latest step comes about a year after Maine declared its intentions to rid itself of the profane license plates. The state got itself into this predicament back in 2015 when it essentially eliminated the review process for vanity plates. Secretary of State Shanna Bellows is leading the process of removing these plates from the road. Bellows is a staunch supporter of freedom of speech and a former director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, but even she says these plates are a step too far.

“What I would say to those who want to engage in objectionable or questionable speech: Get a bumper sticker,” Bellows said.

Currently, there are license plates with salty language including F-bombs, references to anatomy and sex acts, and general insults. One license plate says simply, “F—-Y0U" — except that on the plate, it's plainly spelled out.

So yes, Maine has a problem here, and it’s in the process of solving it. The new rules bring it back into line with other states. They ban derogatory references to age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, religion or disability. Also banned is language that incites violence, or is considered profane or obscene.

A committee has been set up to review vanity plate requests, along with complaints by members of the public.

In Maine, there are about 124,000 vanity license plates on the roads in a state with about 1.3 million residents. Previous estimates suggested 400 offensive plates could be subject to recall, and nearly 40 recall letters had been issued as of midweek, officials said.

Material from AP is used in this report.