INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A gay youth group whose specialty license plate was
revoked at the behest of conservative Indiana lawmakers is appealing the
decision to an administrative law judge, arguing that the state selectively
enforced the policy that led to the ban.
The American Civil Liberties Union is representing the Indiana Youth Group
in its appeal of the state’s March decision, which was made after a group of
conservative state Senate Republicans lobbied the BMV to revoke the group’s
new specialty plates.
The BMV revoked the right of the youth group, the Indiana Greenways
Foundation and the Indiana 4-H Foundation to issue plates because it said
they were selling their allotments of low-numbered plates for more than the
Mary Byrne, Indiana Youth Group’s executive director, said Tuesday that the
group will show at the upcoming appeal hearing that it’s a common practice
for groups that offer specialty plates.
“The plan is to go through discovery and be able to ask these other
organizations what they do and how they’ve done it in the past so that we
can show we’ve been doing the same thing as other people have,” Byrne said.
BMV spokesman Dennis Rosebrough said the agency halted the sale of the three
groups’ plates because the higher fees they were charging amounted to a
breach of contract with the state.
“So there was a quid pro quo,” Rosebrough said.
The 4-H Foundation is also appealing the BMV decision but the Greenways
Foundation, a conservation group, declined an administrative appeal,
Rosebrough said. 4-H Foundation Board President Christy Denault declined to
comment. The Greenways Foundation didn’t immediately respond to a request
for comment Wednesday.
The practice of reserving low-number plates for supporters is fairly common
in Indiana. The Indiana Soccer group, which supports youth soccer programs,
advertises low-number plates on its website for an additional $30 per plate
on top of the $40 charge for specialty plates. Butler University and the
Indiana Black Expo offer low-numbered specialty plates, too, and direct
inquiries to their fundraising offices.
Ken Falk, the ACLU’s legal director who is representing the youth group,
said the three groups should not be singled out if it’s a common practice.
The ACLU, the youth group and the state have fought over the license plates
before. The ACLU filed a lawsuit in 2010 seeking approval for the youth
group’s multiple applications for a specialty plate. The state settled out
of court in 2010 and the group began issuing plates at the start of this
The Senate Republicans approached the BMV about pulling the youth group’s
plates after GOP state Rep. Jeff Thompson tried but failed to ban specialty
plates for gay advocacy groups in the House.
Social conservatives, led in part by conservative Indiana lobbyist Eric
Miller, said they were concerned that the youth group was promoting underage
sex and specifically cited a course the group led on safe sex entitled
“Condoms are Cool and Dental Dams are Dandy.”
A handful of Republicans in the House and Senate had said they wanted to
focus broadly on whether too many nonprofit and advocacy groups were getting
specialty plates from the state without focusing on one advocacy group.
State lawmakers are expected to meet over the summer to study the broader
issue of how specialty plates are approved and whether it is hard for state
police to identify cars with specialty plates.
Aside from the
governmental battling, the dust-up has generated more support for the group,
Byrne said. They sold 50 copies of an informal plate at the Indianapolis gay
pride parade last weekend and their float in the parade was a
larger-than-life license plate.