In reversal, North Carolina DMV approves lesbian license plate

The DMV initially rejected the woman's “LSBNSNLV” license plate request, saying it was deemed "offensive to good taste and decency."
By Associated Press

GREENVILLE, N.C. — The North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles approved Wednesday a woman’s request for a specialty license plate to honor her wife after initially turning her down.

The NCDMV initially told Amy Bright of Greenville, who requested a plate reading “LSBNSNLV” for “lesbians in love,” that it had the right to deny any license plate it deems “offensive to good taste and decency.” DMV Commissioner Torre Jessup said Wednesday he approved the plate, saying it was a mistake to reject it in the first place.

Jessup said in a statement that he left a voice message for Bright to apologize and to let her know about her request being approved.

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Bright said her First Amendment rights were being violated, adding that she would sue if the appeal is denied.

“I think that’s ridiculous. I’m trying to celebrate the love I have for my wife, so I don’t see how that’s in poor taste,” she said prior to the NCDMV reversal. “How can a celebration of love be in poor taste?”

The agency’s initial statement to WFMY-TV in Greensboro didn’t address Bright’s request specifically. It also said the U.S. Supreme Court has determined that license plates are “government speech,” giving the state agency “broad discretion in refusing to issue a plate with an indecent word or message.” The DMV says it has rejected more than 7,000 license plate requests over the years.

Bright noted that her request had no curse words or hate speech. She said she previously had a plate reading “OUTLSBN,” for “out lesbian.” She thinks the rejection reflects someone’s personal feeling, rather than a governing principle.