INDIANAPOLIS (CN) – Indiana Youth Group, a nonprofit that supports young people “who self-identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or questioning their sexual identities,” claim the state Bureau of Motor Vehicles had discriminated by refusing to approve its custom “special group recognition” license plate application.
Founded in 1987, Indiana Youth Group says it has “a steadily growing membership list”.
In its federal complaint, the Youth Group says the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles allows groups to apply for special license plates, which carry a custom design promoting the group.
Custom plates can be used to generate revenue, as groups can collect an annual fee of $25 for each plate.
The BMV website trumpets the success of the program, stating: “In 2009, Hoosiers purchased 431,854 specialty plates … generating over $10.5 million for the sponsoring organizations.”
The Youth Group says its application was denied 2 years in a row. It calls the denials viewpoint discrimination and violation of the First Amendment.
The BMV has approved similar applications from other youth groups, including the 4-H Foundation, Future Farmers of America, Boy Scouts, and Girl Scouts, and a host of other specialty plates listed in the complaint.
The Youth Group says completed the application properly, including submitting a petition with at least 500 members who will buy the plates.
In its rejection letter, the Bureau wrote, “While each organization was found to be an extremely worthwhile candidate, the recent growth in the number of specialty plates makes it increasingly difficult for new applicants to meet all criteria.”
For an application to be approved, the Commissioner of the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles must determine that an organization demonstrates “an uncommon level of statewide distinction and benefit to the citizens of Indiana that sets the organization and its purpose for the plate apart from others.”
Allowing the commissioner unilateral discretion over the approval of applications “runs afoul of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and the defendant’s policies – as well as the statute and regulations leading to these policies – must be enjoined as unconstitutional,” according to the complaint.
Indiana Youth Group says it has a mailing list of approximately 2,800 supporters. It wants the state ordered to approve its specialty plates.
The group is represented by Gavin Rose and Kenneth Falk with the ACLU of Indiana.