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Gay teen support group suing Indiana over refusal to allow specialty license plates

Gay teen support group suing Indiana over refusal to allow specialty license plates

A support group for gay and lesbian teenagers is suing the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles over their refusal to to issue a specialty license plate for the group.

The Indiana Youth Group helps children in the gay, lesbian and transgender community. Volunteers travel throughout the state providing support for the often-troubled teens.

The Indianapolis-based youth organization said it was denied a request for a specialty plate twice. The specialty plates raise money and public awareness of the sponsoring groups, which can charge a fee of up to $25 per plate. In addition, the BMV charges a $15 fee that goes to the state.

The group applied for a specialty license plate in 2008 and was denied without being given a reason, according to Mary Byrne, Executive Director of the group.

When she re-applied last year, Byrne said she was informed by phone that the BMV didn’t feel her organization was statewide.

The group accused the BMV of lacking clear standards to evaluate plates and violating the First Amendment by using unilateral discretion in ruling on applications.

But BMV spokesman Dennis Rosebrough said the Indiana Youth Group was turned down because it failed to provide evidence that its services have a statewide impact and because it planned to use the license plate funds to pay staff salaries. The money, he said, cannot be used for operating expenses. [Indianapolis Star]

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed the lawsuit on the group’s behalf in U.S. District Court Thursday.

Indiana currently offers 78 specialty plates and will have 11 new plates in 2011.

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