Can a vanity license plate that makes a personal statement about illegal immigrants cross the line?
“We’re not sure how it got through,” Tammy Kikuchi, a spokeswoman for the Utah State Tax Commission, which oversees the Utah Division of Motor Vehicles, said, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. “We’re really quite surprised.”
She confirmed the plate was approved in 2015.
Salt Lake City resident Matt Pacenza saw the plate and posted a photo on Twitter on Thursday, questioning how it wouldn’t violate the commission’s guidelines.
The post got the attention of a handful of state senators and the tax commission, which confirmed it is reviewing it, according to Salt Lake City’s Deseret News.
Many commenters agreed the plate was “offensive,” “horrific” or simply put: “yuk.”
Others said the matter could be a First Amendment free-speech issue.
Utah law says vanity plates may not show “contempt, ridicule or superiority of a race, religion, deity, ethnic heritage or political affiliation.”
“I think there’s a wide range of opinions in Utah when it comes to an issue like immigration and that’s a good thing,” Pacenza said, according to Deseret News. “I think it’s good to live in a place where we can express ourselves freely and have a diverse set of attitudes about complex issues, but it doesn’t feel like to me license plates are the right venue for that. And this particular issue just seemed unusually aggressive and confrontational.”
In the last few years, the Utah Tax Commission has banned plate requests like “3MERL0T” “4TWENTY” and “KKKADEN,” according to The Tribune.
“A private citizen has a first amendment right to say offensive things. The State does not, and has rules about license plates,” Republican State Sen. Daniel W. Thatcher tweeted. “I believe those rules have been violated here. Hopefully Tax Commission agrees.”
Democratic State Sen. Luz Escamilla tweeted that the plate would be discussed at the next Administrative Rules Review Committee.
The commission also refuses plate requests that are vulgar, sexual, profane or derogatory.