John Keefe's request for the license plate "LGBTALY" was denied because it "carries a sexual connotation."
Dr. John Keefe II is a chiropractor from Oklahoma. He found himself butting heads with his state's government over his attempt to make a statement for human rights, and now he's taking them to court. He says the state is infringing on his right to free speech.
Keefe is married with two kids, and is a passionate supporter of LGBT rights, partially because he has a lesbian sister. He decided to show his support by getting a vanity license plate for his car, and because he is an LGBT ally, he settled on "LGBTALY." Very literal. He submitted his application to the Oklahoma Tax Commission in December and waited. And waited. So much time passed that he figured his form had been lost, but it hadn't. He eventually got a response from the tax commission denying his request because his plate "carries a sexual connotation."
Keefe was upset. He considered this position very unfair, so he filed an open records request to the tax commission for a list of rejected and approved license plates. That request, which the commission must grant under Oklahoma law, was totally ignored, despite being sent twice via certified mail. That's when Keefe decided to sue.
John Keefe. (via News on 6)
He believes that a list of which plates were and weren't accepted would support his claim that the decision was based on prejudice against the LGBT community. Based on the fact they won't give it to him, it sounds like the tax commission feels the same way. Of course, technically they're right that "LGBTALY" has a sexual connotation, according to the dictionary definition of "sexual" of "related to sexuality." Keefe and his lawyer, however, don't think anyone pored over a dictionary to make this decision. And the American Civil Liberties Union has their back.
The ACLU says that license plates exist in Oklahoma that read "STR8SXI" and "STR8FAN." And on Sunday, somebody took a picture of an Oklahoma plate reading "SEXYQT." So it seems like the tax commission is fine with plates being sexual as long as they're heterosexual.
These are totally fine. (via News on 6)
A hearing with the tax commission will be held in June. If you agree strongly with John Keefe, there is an online petition to get the tax commission to overturn its decision and let him have the plate. As of press time, it has more than 400 signatures.
Maybe calling attention to this story will force Oklahoma to change its position. Everybody notices when states pass so-called "religious freedom" laws that discriminate against the LGBT community, but institutionalized prejudice doesn't always come down to the letter of the law. Sometimes, vaguely worded policies like this one are used by those in power to institute a bigoted double standard. Offenses like these can go on for years without being noticed. It's only when someone raises a big fuss over what may seem like a small issue that real change can begin.