OK to Say I'm Gay on a Vanity Plate in OK?

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on February 17, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Perhaps it would not be everybody's idea of what is appropriate to spell out their sexual preference on their license plate, but can the state really say it is offensive to the general public? According to the local KoCo 5 News, that is the current finding of the Oklahoma State Tax Commission and it has resulted in, of course, a lawsuit. Keith Kimmel, 28, a political science and pre-law major at Oklahoma City Community College, is already advancing on his career in court and looking for a fight. He has sued the Oklahoma Tax Commission to force them to issue his preferred plate: "Im Gay."

According to the report, the commission has so far refused permission for the out and proud Oklahoman to use said plate on the basis that it "may be offensive to the general public." Most states have similar requirements for issuing vanity plates. Even in freewheeling California, the DMV states on the vanity plate application, that the Department can order the cancellation or return of any plate "containing any combination of letters, or numbers, or both, which the department determines carries connotations offensive to good taste and decency or which would be misleading." But, in the Golden State, you of course can request a hearing to review the DMV's decision. 

In New York, plates will be issued unless, "in the discretion of the commissioner, [the plate would be] obscene, lewd, lascivious, derogatory to a particular ethnic or other group, or patently offensive ... [or] would lead one to believe that the owner of a particular vehicle is connected with or operating in an official capacity for a governmental organization or function."

In Oklahoma, the website offering the vanity plates doesn't even reveal the limitations on what one may or may not choose to plaster on their plate. Not until you open the application, does the Oklahoma State Tax Commission remind you that you may not offend the general public in the state of Oklahoma. Of course it is now a question for the Oklahoma County District Court to decide whether the community standards of the general public in Norman, Oklahoma will be offended by Kimmel's statement. Would he have better luck with an "Im a Lawyer" plate? Not likely.

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