'GAYGUY' License Plate Denial Drives Ga. Man to Sue

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on January 30, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The state of Georgia has a lawsuit to fend off, after denying a man's request for a personalized license plate saying "GAYGUY."

But legally speaking, did state officials infringe on Cyrus Gilbert's rights, or did they make an allowable judgment call pursuant to an established regulation?

Gilbert, an openly gay man, asserts that his rights were violated in his quest for a vanity license plate. After all, so many people have all sorts of personalized vanity license plates reflecting their affiliations and identities, right?

Apparently, homosexual identity doesn't make the cut in Georgia.

Two other license plates he requested were also rejected: "4GAYLIB" and "GAYPWR," Atlanta's WGCL-TV reports.

Certain messages on vanity plates aren't allowed by the state of Georgia. These include plates that are vulgar or hateful.

Gilbert's lawsuit is asking for injunctive relief, compelling the state to approve the license plate. He is also requesting a court order to declare the state regulation that governs vanity plates as unconstitutional.

That could happen if a court finds Gilbert's "GAYGUY" license plate request was rejected because of the viewpoint it expressed. In general, a government regulation must be viewpoint-neutral: It cannot inhibit a citizen's speech based on the view expressed in the speech.

Georgia's Department of Revenue (the agency behind the license plates) told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that it's very tricky to be viewpoint neutral when they have to make numerous judgment calls about appropriate license plates every week.

But in addition to the viewpoint neutrality argument, Gilbert's lawyers are saying that the regulation was also applied arbitrarily.

While Gilbert's vanity plate expressing his homosexuality was rejected, numerous license plates advocating religious speech and conservative speech have been allowed, Gilbert's lawyers argue. They claim that essentially shows that the state favors one point of view over another.

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