Let All Custom Plates on the Road
By Kathleen M. Gallagher
Less than 24 hours after the New York Giants won the Super Bowl, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that our state was offering a new custom license plate in their honor. For an initial cost of $60, and an annual renewal fee of $31.25, you too can have the NFL Giants with the Super Bowl XLVI Champions logo on a moving mini-billboard on your car.
I have nothing against the New York Giants, but seriously? Our state has not issued a single new specialty license plate in eight years. That’s right, even a September 11 memorial plate and a Cure Childhood Cancer plate have been turned down.
Why? Because in 2004 the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) suspended all new custom plates so they wouldn’t be forced to allow a “Choose Life” license plate on the road. That’s a message our New York State government happens to disagree with, and finds politically incorrect.
The DMV used to administratively approve new custom license plates with relative frequency, as evidenced by the hundreds of designs now on the road. But in 2001, the Children First Foundation, a pro-adoption organization, applied to the DMV for the “Choose Life” plate. They were rejected — repeatedly. The state claimed that a license plate advocating a “politically sensitive” and “emotionally charged” viewpoint is “patently offensive” and could incite “road rage.” (As an aside, why are they not similarly worried about potential road rage from New England Patriots fans?)
So the Children First Foundation sued the state. And in November of last year, they welcomed a favorable decision in United States District Court. The judge said the state DMV infringed on their right to free speech and ordered the DMV to allow the “Choose Life” plate on the road. But the State of New York appealed that decision, so, for now, as the case drags on, no new plates.
Unless, of course, you want a New York Giants Super Bowl Champions plate. That one the Governor will allow.
In addition to being insulting to the victims and heroes of 9/11, as well as to noble causes like cancer research, that’s just plain wrong. You can’t permit free speech for some but not for all. Governor, lift the moratorium. Let the Choose Life license plates on the road.