Maine close to ridding license plates of obscenities

May 5, 2022, 1:19 AM | Updated: 1:31 pm

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — The rackin’ frackin’ sassafrassin’ salty language on hundreds of Maine license plates is one step closer to being removed from the road.

Maine’s secretary of state released draft rules Thursday that would eliminate references to genitalia, sex acts and profanities that proliferated after the state severely loosened language restrictions on so-called vanity license plates in 2015.

The rough and foul language on the plates led to a steady stream of complaints.

It was all too much even for a secretary of state who previously served as director of American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, which has fought for First Amendment rights to freedom of expression.

“Incitement to violence, profanity, ethnic, racial, religious, or other slurs, or reference to illegal or criminal activity – all of which unfortunately can be seen on Maine registration plates today – are all directly contrary to the public interest,” Secretary of State Shenna Bellows said in a statement.

It has been a delicate balancing act.

A federal judge ruled in 2020 that California couldn’t enforce a ban on vanity license plates it considers “offensive to good taste and decency.”

So Maine’s rules had to be narrowly tailored.

The draft rules would prohibit license plates that falsely suggest an association with a government agency; encourage violence or unlawful activities; attack race or religion; suggest genitalia or sex acts; or represent profane or obscene language. A public hearing is scheduled later this month.

There would be a mechanism for a motorist to appeal if a vanity plate was rejected because of objectionable language.

Things quickly got out of control when the state all but dropped its review process in 2015 after previously banning “obscene, contemptuous, profane or prejudicial” messages on license plates.

Cathie Curtis, deputy secretary of state overseeing the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, said the coarse and offensive language that has since cropped up routinely elicited complaints.

Last year, the Maine Legislature adopted a bill restoring a review, and the governor signed it into law.

In Maine, there are about 121,000 vanity license plates on the roads in a state with about 1.3 million residents. It’s unclear how many of them could be removed; state officials previously estimated hundreds.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


A man wearing a face mask stands on a bridge over an expressway in Beijing, Thursday, May 19, 2022....
Associated Press

Shanghai to reopen subways in easing of COVID restrictions

BEIJING (AP) — The locked-down Chinese metropolis of Shanghai will reopen four of its 20 subway lines Sunday as it slowly eases pandemic restrictions that have kept most residents in their housing complexes for more than six weeks. The city will also restart 273 bus lines connecting major urban centers, airports, train stations and hospitals […]
23 hours ago
FILE- Police officers attend the funeral prayer of a colleague who was killed in an overnight attac...
Associated Press

Militant attacks hurt Pakistan relations with Afghan Taliban

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Faced with rising violence, Pakistan is taking a tougher line to pressure Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers to crack down on militants hiding on their soil, but so far the Taliban remain reluctant to take action — trying instead to broker a peace. Last month came a sharp deterioration in relations between the two […]
23 hours ago
FILE - Alabama coach Nick Saban watches players warm up for the College Football Playoff championsh...
Associated Press

Saban calls out Texas A&M for using NIL deals to buy players

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Alabama coach Nick Saban called out Texas A&M on Wednesday night for “buying” players in its top-ranked recruiting class with name, image and likeness deals, saying Crimson Tide football players earned more than $3 million last year “the right way.” “I know the consequence is going to be difficult for the […]
23 hours ago
Bangkok governor independent candidate Chadchart Sittipunt, center, introduces himself during an el...
Associated Press

Bangkok governor election seen as national harbinger

BANGKOK (AP) — Residents of the Thai capital, Bangkok, will cast their ballots for the city’s leader Sunday in a vote seen as a barometer of the public mood ahead of an approaching general election. Opinion polls suggest that candidates associated with opposition parties in Parliament will dominate in the race, while the incumbent, who […]
23 hours ago
Buffalo Bills' Josh Allen visits the scene of Saturday's shooting at a supermarket, in Buffalo, N.Y...
Associated Press

Man charged in Buffalo massacre due back in court

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — The white man accused of slaughtering 10 Black people at a Buffalo supermarket was scheduled to appear in court Thursday as authorities including the FBI continue to investigate the possibility of hate crime and terrorism charges. Payton Gendron, 18, livestreamed the attack from a helmet camera before surrendering to police outside […]
23 hours ago
Gabe Kipers, a neighbor of Dr. John Cheng, kneels at a memorial for him outside his office building...
Associated Press

Alleged gunman sent diary to newspaper before church attack

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — The man accused of opening fire on a Southern California church congregation because of his political hatred for Taiwan dubbed himself a “destroying angel” in a seven-volume diary sent to a newspaper before the attack, the paper said Wednesday. David Chou, 68, spent $16.10 to mail seven thick photocopied volumes […]
23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, initiative provides […]

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
Maine close to ridding license plates of obscenities