Vanity plates are all about “personal expression,” and that means a plate reading FKGAS can stay — for now. And that’s good news for Sean Carroll of Rhode Island, who sued the state DMV with the help of the ACLU after the DMV tried to revoke the plate from his.
On Sunday, US District Judge Mary McElroy wrote the decision citing “personal expression” in an early win for Carroll. The plate is supposed to stand for “Fake Gas,” though the DMV argued it reads like someone dropping the F-bomb. Carroll acknowledged this, according to the report, but McElroy’s preliminary injunction made it clear his and the Rhode Island division of the ACLU’s arguments were valid. He will be permitted to keep the plate until a final decision is made and the lawsuit is fully settled. However, the early win for Carroll opens the door to an outright victory in court.
“I am thrilled with McElroy’s decision on my First Amendment right allowing me to express my views through my vanity plate,” Carroll said of the initial ruling in a statement Sunday. “The only thing better is to be able to continue to see all the smiles, laughter, thumbs up and fist bumps in the rearview mirror as people continue to read and get the humor in my message.”
This win may not be the end of it, either. Not only did McElroy declare the plate is part of personal expression, she argued the state’s oversight of vanity plates might be unconstitutional. Essentially, the ACLU and Carroll argued the state is not allowed to say what speech is good or bad. However, the state and its attorney general, Peter Neronha, said vanity plates are vehicle identification the state uses to, well, identify cars. And make money. Therefore, the plates are “government speech.”
So the FKGAS Tesla lives to charge another day, but what will happen further down the line remains to be seen.