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Tapping the Vain 

Bible references are now AOK on VT vanity plates. What else BLEWBY the DMV?

On April 20, 2004, Vermonter Shawn Byrne applied for the license plate “JN36TN,” a thinly veiled reference to the Bible verse John 3:16. According to court records, the Department of Motor Vehicles denied Byrne’s request on the grounds that it violated Vermont’s ban on personalized, or “vanity,” plates that refer to deities or religions. By law, messages must “avoid disruption and distraction of drivers through controversial plates,” as well as “the perception that the government favors certain ideas.”

Byrne challenged the state’s decision in U.S. District Court, and lost. But in October, the U.S. Court of Appeals, in Byrne v. Rutledge, reversed the lower court’s decision and ruled in Byrne’s favor. It deemed that “Vermont’s ban on all religious messages in a forum it has otherwise broadly opened to a wide variety of subjects, including personal philosophy, affiliation and belief, serves not to restrict but instead to discriminate … and, as such, is impermissible.”

While upholding Byrne’s right of free speech, the second circuit court judges didn’t go so far as to strike down the state’s ban on all controversial messages, including any that are vulgar, derogatory or obscene, or connote illicit drug use.

Interestingly, what’s OK to drivers on the right — NRA, LUVGUNS, G0P, PR0NUKE — still might be considered “controversial” to drivers on the left — CH0ICE, DM0CRAT, LEFTIST, LESSOIL, TREHUGR. And vice versa. All of these, by the way, can be seen on current Vermont plates.

Moreover, words and their meanings change over time. It used to be that getting a “hummer” in a public parking lot could get you arrested. Today, a Hummer just pisses off the drivers with the LESSC02 and PEAK0IL plates.

Which begs the question: What else has slipped by the DMV’s censors? A review of the state’s 35,860 vanity plates (as of September 3) turned up other phrases that might raise eyebrows — and not just spiritual references such as KRISHNA, MUHAMAD, LTADAYS, PRAY, PSALM24, PSALM46, SHAKTI and 0HHMM.

Dirty drivers?

BANG

BANGK0K

BANGMEUP

BANGS

BEAVIN

BIGENUF

BIGSEXY

B0NE

B0NEMAN

B0NES

B00F

BUGGER

BUTZ

BVR

CLAM

CLIMAX

CLT

CMN

CREAMEE

C00CH

C00TCH

DICKSTR

DICK8

DKHUNTR

D0NG

DUKIE

EJAG

FINGER

FK

FRISKME

GET0FF

GETS0ME

GETW00D

GIGGY

GIVRSUM

HARD

HEINEY

H00HAA

H00KER

H00KNUP

H0TR0CZ

HVNW00D

INDEEP

INHIM

INN0UT

L0VEGUN

LVMYB0X

MEAT

M00SEX

MRSBJ

MYTHANG

NASTY1

NGTYGRL

NIBBLER

PANSIES

PANT

P0KE

P00T

PUMPIT

QUIM

RAMIT

RAMNIT

RIDEHRD

RIDEME

RDEHRD

SHAG

SPANKS

SWEAT

TANG

T0PLESS

TR0JAN

TRYST

VIAGRA

VIBR8TR

WH0HA

WH0HAAA

WILLY

W00DY

W00DYK

W00DYS

WTF

YANKME

2BIG4U

69PLYRR

Impaired drivers?

BAKE

BAKED2

BERN

BLAZIN

BRND0UT

BURN1

BUZZZZZ

BY0B

C0KE

EXHALE

FATTY

GRAM2G0

GREATWD

HERB

LITEMUP

LTEMUP

PHATTY

PILLS

PIPE

PIPES

PUFF

PUFFER

REDPILL

SMOKEM

SMOKIN

TRIP

TRIPS

UBURN2

WEED

1GRAM

While we’re at it, here are a few that, while neither controversial nor obscene, make you wonder why anyone would want to advertise the message:

BURN0UT

DETH

DETHWGN

DIRTBAG

DRTBAG

DTHTRAP

FATB0Y

FATGRL

FLAKE

FLTLNDR

FUGITIV

GARBAGE

GASH0G

GERMS

G00BER

HAG

HAZARD

HAZZARD

HICK

H8FUL

IBAD

IBADDER

ILLEGAL

INDEBT

ITCHY

JDGMNTL

LAXDAD

LAXREF

LETHAL

L00NBAT

L0WLIFE

MEAN

MEANIE

MEANM0M

N0TAC0P

N0TPD4

PINHEAD

PUREVIL

PYR0

REP0MAN

RDKILL

ST0LEN

THUG

TRASHY

WANTED

2FATT

6SIX6

Questionable states of mind?

ADRIFT

AIMLESS

ASLEEP

BLASTED

BLKN0UT

B0NKERS

CRUEL

CYC0TIC

DAZED

DIZZY

DREAMN

FLSHBCK

HAMMERD

IMHYPER

INAF0G

INSANE

INXTCY

KRAZY

NRV0US

TRANCE

UNGLUED

WARPED


Click through this slideshow to see some of the eyebrow-raising vanity plates that the Vermont DMV has authorized. For the full list, scroll to the bottom of the story.

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About The Author

Ken Picard

Ken Picard

Bio:
Ken Picard has been a Seven Days staff writer since 2002. He has won numerous awards for his work, including the Vermont Press Association's 2005 Mavis Doyle award, a general excellence prize for reporters.

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