The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio Foundation will file a lawsuit in United States District Court in Columbus on the morning of December 20, 2001, alleging that the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicle’s policy for approving drivers’ applications for vanity plates violates the First Amendment. The suit is being brought on behalf of a Niles man who was denied the license plate “RDRAGE,” which is the name of his car. A press conference will be held at the time and place listed above, at which Legal Director Raymond Vasvari will be available to answer questions.

The State maintains guidelines for approving vanity plate applications. The guidelines are applied by a panel of seven individuals who determine which applications should be granted. Specifically, the guidelines give the committee discretion to deny any applications that in its opinion are “ethnic or controversial in origin or character or are judged offensive, disparaging or socially insensitive.” “The Supreme Court has held repeatedly that the State cannot give its officials unlimited discretion to censor speech,” said ACLU Legal Director Ray Vasvari. “By employing these vague standards, that is precisely what the BMV has done here. What message will or will not be approved is anybody’s guess.”

The suit, which names Ohio BMV Registrar Franklin Caltrider and Lt. Governor Maureen O’Connor as defendants for purposes of enforcement, asks the court to declare the guidelines unconstitutional and to enjoin their use.