This Washington Post story (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/03/AR2007110301111.html) shows how obsessed some in the Virginia political bureaucracy are with all things gay. As if the Department of Motor Vehicles doesn't have more important matters to worry about. But I guess they don't want to upset some member of The Family Foundation, Daddy Dobson's affiliate organization in Virginia. These bureaucrats area bit dense, however, if it took them eleven years to figure out the meaning of the license plates. Here are some story highlights:
For 11 years, over nearly 200,000 miles, with the blessing of the state of Virginia, David Phillips has driven his Tracker with the "POOFTER" license plate, and nobody has complained -- not even when he parked at the British Embassy, where everybody knows "poofter" is British slang for a gay man. It's always a rolling good laugh for them," says Phillips, who is gay and chose his tags' message because "it's just an amusing word that I self-identify with."
The commonwealth of Virginia is not amused. It gave Phillips his vanity plates in error, Carolyn Easley, coordinator of the special license plates office, wrote in a recent letter. "You may have grown fond of your personalized plates," but they are "socially, racially or ethnically offensive or disparaging" and "you must return them." There was no explanation for why it took Virginia 11 years to figure out what "poofter" means.
They'll have to pry those plates from Phillips's cold dead hands, or something like that. The 42-year-old Arlington County resident, who works as a computer consultant, says he's not sending back the tags, even if the state has generously provided a prepaid envelope for that purpose. The next step: a hearing in Richmond. But Phillips's chances are not good, because his case has been to the Word Committee, a panel of a dozen Department of Motor Vehicles employees who review vanity plate applications that have either drawn a citizen complaint or been flagged by a computer program that searches proposed plate messages -- forward and backward -- for obscene, explicit, excretory, violent or offensive content.
In Phillips's case, it must have been a citizen complaint that triggered the review because the state doesn't just randomly go back and reconsider plates that have been on the road for years. If you, like Phillips, are amazed that the state would bother to spend tax dollars chasing after vanity plates, you'll want to grab the blood pressure meds before reading this: Hundreds of battles over personalized plates have used up untold government resources in a strange corner of the law that has some of the nation's top courts issuing contradictory rulings.
Like many Virginians -- the state is No. 3 in the portion of drivers (12 percent) who personalize their plates -- Phillips uses his car to send messages. For a while, he had a sticker that altered the state's 400th anniversary Jamestown plates to say "400 Years of Oppression and Bigotry."
But his vanity plates were always more about having a chuckle over his personal identity than about making any political point. "People have to be into British humor or have some contact with that culture to have any idea what it means," Phillips says. He first heard the word in adolescence while watching Boy George appear on the old Phil Donahue talk show. "Some old British woman gets up and asks, 'So, Boy, when did you realize you were a poofter?' " Phillips will fight on to Richmond, but, as a realistic fellow, he's also looking ahead: "I wonder what they would do with a word like 'queer.' "
The idiocy of this state is truly mind boggling at times. Under performing schools, declining health statistics, and underfunded transportation needs, yet the state can waste time and effort on this kind of stuff. Pathetic.