BMV appeals ruling on vanity plates lawsuit

WLFI File Photo
WLFI File Photo

NDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Bureau of Motor Vehicles is appealing a ruling that it violated the First Amendment.

Last summer, our sister station WISH-TV found inconsistencies in how the BMV approved and denied vanity license plate requests. The BMV suspended the program after a lawsuit claimed the decisions infringe on free speech.

The suit was filed by Greenfield Police Corporal Rodney Vawter. Vawter claimed the agency’s decision to revoke his personalized plate, which reads “0INK” next to a Fraternal Order of Police logo, was unconstitutional. Vawter claimed it was speech he found “humorous.”

Last month, a Marion County judge agreed. The program hasn’t resumed.

Monday, the Bureau released a statement saying:

We respectfully disagree with this holding, and will appeal that ruling at the appropriate time. However, the issue of immediate concern is the portion of the court’s order requiring the BMV to reinstate the program, despite the conclusion that it is unconstitutional, under a new regulatory scheme created by the court. The court’s new rules would require the BMV to issue personalized plates that contain messages offensive to one’s race, religion, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. We disagree that the statute is unconstitutional, but if that is the ultimate finding of the courts, then the legislature would be the proper avenue to create a new personalized license plate system, not the judiciary.

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