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BMV reinstates specialty plates for gay group

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TOM COYNE

Associated Press

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles resumed sales Friday of a specialty license plate that supports a gay-youth advocacy group 15 months after suspending the practice, but the legal battle may not be over.

BMV Commissioner Scott Waddell said in a letter Friday to Ken Falk, the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana legal director who is representing the Indiana Youth Group in the federal lawsuit filed last week, that while the specialty license plates were being reinstated immediately, IYG is barred from distributing low-number plates because in the past it received “unauthorized payments” for them.

That’s the same reason BMV gave in March 2012 when announcing it was stripping IYG and two other organizations of the specialty plates - just after the gay-youth advocacy group survived a legislative attempt to have its specialty plate removed.

Administrative Law Judge Melissa Reynolds issued a ruling in May that directed the BMV to reinstate the plates, but Waddell stepped in while he reviewed whether IYG violated its contract with the state.

The ACLU argued in the lawsuit that Waddell violated due process by asserting himself as the final authority in an independent review. Falk said Friday that it appears Waddell was attempting to do that again by trying to block IYG from determining who should get the low-number plates.

“One of the cardinal rules of due process is that the decision maker has to be impartial and impartiality is defined as someone who was not involved in making the final decision. So I think we have an objection about the commissioner to be continued to be involved in this at all,” Falk said.

BMV spokesman Josh Gillespie said the agency would have no comment beyond the letter.

IYG executive director Mary Byrne said she was elated that the special plate has been reinstated.

“I’m so excited. I can’t even believe that it’s over. We’ve been living with this for 15 months,” she said.

She said two people contacted her Friday afternoon saying they already had ordered IYG plates. She said she was undecided about whether the group should challenge the BMV’s ban on distributing low-number plates.

“There’s part of me that just doesn’t want to go any further. Then there’s a part of me that says, ‘You just can’t do this to us,’” she said.

The group hopes that 1,000 people will order the plates this year, which she said would bring in $25,000.

“The financial part was important, but the basic part is you just can’t let the government step on you,” she said.

 

Posted 7/1/2013