Even though there is a law that bans such profanities from Maine, it won’t be done overnight.
There are currently license plates that have salty language, including references to anatomy, sex acts and insults. One plate simply says “F—Y0U” — but it is clearly spelled out on the plate.
Rule-making is underway now to protect First Amendment rights and eliminate obscene language.
According to Secretary of State Shenna bellows, the process could take anywhere from two to four months.
In the interim, requests for vanity plates will be held. The state will eventually recall plates that were previously issued, most likely this winter.
She stated that “Rule-making will delay active removal of plates from roads but will help us balance free speech rights of citizens with the public interest in removing inappropriate license plates.”
Most states place restrictions on license plate messages that may be considered offensive, profane or sexually suggestive.
Maine was the “wild, wild and wild west” of vanity plates after it dropped its review process in 2015. Bellows stated that the state’s “anything-goes” approach was unique.
Bellows, a former executive director of American Civil Liberties Union of Maine understands the importance of First Amendment protections for free speech. She admitted that she did not understand the full extent of “really troubling” license plates when she was sworn into office as secretary of state earlier in the year.
In other states, there have been lawsuits.
A federal judge ruled last year that California could not enforce a ban against vanity plates it considers “offensive” to good taste or decency.
California’s law was too broad. States must be cautious about licensing plates that contain profane, obscene or hate speech.
Maine has approximately 121,000 vanity plates. This is in a state of 1.3 million people. Officials said that recalls could be made for up to 400 offensive plates.
Bellows stated that she is looking at it in this way: “If it’s not on the 6 o’clock news, it shouldn’t be on a plate.”
She said that the license plate was the property of the state. A bumper sticker is a good option if you want to put an offensive message on your car.